Accountability Lacking in County Jails
Hello, I am contacting you on behalf of Gwinnett County prison population in Georgia. I have started a lawsuit about major Constitutional violations and denials that happen here daily. We are currently accepted in the 11th District, Northern District of Georgia. Our civil action # is 15-CV-00123-AT-JCF.
We are looking for attention from the media to help spread information on the blatant disregard Gwinnett County Detention Center has for the United States Constitution. The defendants in our case are Sheriff R.L. Butch Conway, Colonel Don Pinkard, Major D. Hughes, Corporal Campbell, and Gwinnett County Detention Center.
The jail's rules on restricting prisoners from watching world news on TV during recreation, "free time" as it is called, is a denial of our First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association, and freedom of the press or the right to access to the media.
The jail's "postcard only" policy restricts the prisoners from receiving incoming letters in envelopes, which severely restricts correspondance with our families. This constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of speech and association under the First amendment of the United States Constitution, violating the First Amendment rights of all prisoners at the jail, and all of their correspondents' First Amendment rights as well.
The jail's policy of returning mail and publications, whether world news print media, books or magazines, or incoming letters, and not notifying the prisoners or the senders until after they have already been returned, without giving us and all other correspondents an opportunity for redress or to grieve the issue, constitutes a violation of all prisoners' and all their correspondents' First Amendment right to petition for redress of a grievance under the First Amendment of the Unites States Constitution. It also violates the prisoners' and all of their correspondents' right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is also a violation of deprivation of liberty, or property without due process of law under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment of the United State Constitution.
The "postcard only" policy is a denial of the prisoners', and all of their correspondents', right to expectation of privacy. This constitutes a violation under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, as well as the right to equal protection of the laws, a violation under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The denial of grievances by stating that the "grievance is unfounded," and then not having an appeal process for the grievance, denies us the right to redress of grievances and constitutes a violation of our procedural due process right under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
This is just the start of 150 pages of the current lawsuit pending against Gwinnett County Detention Center for violating our First Amendment rights, the due process clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment.
MIM(Prisons) adds: In our experience fighting censorship in U.$ prisons, it is clear that county jails have some of the most blatant violations of prisoners' rights and United $tates law when it comes to handling incoming mail. Gwinnett County Detention Center's policy of allowing postcards only, and only if they are sized 4x6" or 5x7", definitely does not satisfy the reasonableness test laid out in Thornburgh v. Abbott. Marin County Jail in California and Hampton Roads Regional Jail in Virginia are examples of county-level facilities in other states where censorship is blatant, illegal, and has almost no recourse.
California is implementing (and probably beta testing) a program called Prison Realignment which is purportedly a response to the overcrowding in California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) facilities. Under Realignment, money is allocated to the counties to provide services and "housing" for state prisoners. Many advocates for prisoners' rights would like to see this money put toward rehabilitative services, and in some counties they may get their wish.
How it's playing out in real life, though, is that more prisoners are being moved to county facilities which are operated more like state prisons, and California is leasing space in privately owned prisons. In both cases, there is less accountability than state prisons. Often times (and on the whole in private facilities) censorship and other conditions of confinement are even worse than at the CDCR level.
While California moves more toward county-level imprisonment, we anticipate we will face more challenges with censorship, as is happening at Gwinnett County Detention Center. If this prototype "works" for California, we wouldn't be surprised to see other states move in this direction.
We encourage prisoners everywhere to get involved in fighting censorship when it happens at your facility. This is critical for those interested in anti-imperialist organizing, as it is revolutionary literature that is most frequently denied to prisoners, making our educational work particularly difficult.