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March 17, 1974 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1974-03-17

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Page Five


Due process and behavior-mod:
Prisoners' rights at a glance

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author has
bee in prison for over three years
for sale of- marijuana. Previously
an inmate at the federal peniten-
tiary at Milan, Michigan, he was
trasferred last summer to Terre
saute, Indiaa. A recent court de-
cision ordered his return to Milan,
stating that his transfer constituted
a denial of due process. The gov-
ernment is expected to appeal the
ease. The Daily asked Mr. Saxner
to write on the issue of prisoners'
A FEDERAL Correctional Insti-
tution (euphemism used by
the United States Bureau of
Prisons for prison or peniten-
tiary) at Milan, Michigan, is only
ten or fifteen miles from Ann
Arbor, but, .for the most part,
peonle in that city don't even
know of the prison's existence.
Those who are aware of the
prison have little, if any knowl-
edge about the institution's opera-
tion. However, the people of Ann
Arbor shouldn't feel left out, be-
cause, of the more than thirty
prisons which comprise the
Burea's system, each institution
is situated in a remote enough
area to isolate prisoners from
the community and enable the
prison's operation to be shrouded
in secrecy.
Milan prison is using B. F.
Skinner's Unit Concept of "posi-
tive-reinforcement" conditioning.
Skinner contrived this approach
by placing pigeons in separate
boxes to induce total environ-
mental dependency in them and
compel specific responses from
them. This type of behavior modi-
fication is being toyed with at
Milan, and at present prisoners
are subjected to massive onerant
conditioning (reward-punishment
theory); transactional analysis;
"truth sessions, which use an
abusive verbal attack aimed at
destruction of self-respect: and
the Synanon technique which is
used to reinforce the above
From April to August of 1973
I was imprisoned at the federal
facility at Milan. so what is
stated here is a first-person ac-
count. Throughout my prison ex-
perience (which now totals more
than three years for marijuana
"c r i m e s," serving my first
twenty-five months in South
Carolina's s t a t e penitentiary)
I've been working to help estab-
lish both prisoners' rights and the
alo~tion of prisons.,
Shortly after getting to Milan
I became involved with a pris-
o'ier organization known as the
P r i a a n e r s Cultural Collective
(PCC). The PCC was doing a
number of constructive things for
the benefit of all the prisoners
there. Community resources were
used to the fullest, and we only
had to depend on the administra-
tion for either approving or re-
jecting our proposals. Every-
thing PCC was doing was ex-
tremely important to a confined
being, getting the person In
direct contact with the commun-
ity, current events and himself.
Some of the programs PCC
implemented consisted of educa-
tional workshops, conducted at
least once a week on a wide-
range of relevant topics (dealing
with economic, political, cultural
vocational and other trends) not
afforded by the prison itself, and
taught by instructors from the
University of Michigan and/or
concerned community p e o p1 e
knowledgeable about a subject;
an ongoing eight week course
teaching prisoners to operate
audio-visual equipment; and en-
tertainment in the form of movies
and musical bands. We also had
impending projects dealing with
putting community persons in
touch with prisoners to provide
correspondence, visiting and pre-
release relationships which could
make the difference in whether
or not a released prisoner would

become a recidivist statistic.
see PCC programs destroyed
last August by the warden, Herb
Beull. Prisoners become used to
such destruction in the federal
system, where they experience
frequent transfers at the whim of
prison officials. The entire PCC
workforce was either put into
segregation, transferred to an-
other institution, or both trans-
ferred to another institution and
then placed into segregation upon
arrival at the new prison. The
latter happened to me in retalia-
tion for telling one of Beall's
Falmouth, Mossechusetta
Summer Employment
Representatives will
be on campus

agents that he shouldn't physic-
ally abuse prisoners, as they too
are human beings. Subsequently
there was a protest in the form
of a fast which included, but was
not limited to, PCC members out-
raged about the reasons behind
my transfer.
Warden Beall seized upon the
protest as an excuse to transfer
PCC members (only) to a num-
ber of institutions stretching
from Lompoc, California to
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Beall,
who had just taken the position
of warden a month before the
fast, wanted to use PCC mem-
bers as an example to the other
prisoners that nothing but sub-
servience would be tolerated at
Milan. Beall still, uses reprisal
transfers to rid himself of any
prisoners who are not willing to
display submissive behavior-
which means if you're not sub-
missive and don't accent the
fact that you're at Milan to
"modify" your behavior, you can
expect to be transferred to a
more repressive institution where,
among other things, your parole
status would be adversely af-
There were some prisoners who
petitioned the court in protest of
the treatment they were sub-
jected to by Milan's kangaroo
court, the "Adjustment Commit-
tee" (a grou of selected offi-
cials who "resolve" disciplinary
p r o b l e m s and "recommend"
transfers). The prisoners who
filed suit alleged that the "Ad-
justment Committee" deprived
them of liberty and property
without due process of law in
violation of the Fifth Amend-
This court case, which has
become know as Walker v.
Hughes and which began long
before the PCC incident, took a
year to be heard but culminated
in an evidentary hearing that
lasted some twelve days. The
hearing ended in early October of
1973. After carefully considering
the evidence from the hearing
and the legal briefs of the plan-
tiffs' lawyers, Mort Cohen (then
a professor at the Wayne State
University Law School) and
Marty Reisig (from the Federal
Defenders Office in Detroit), a
United States District Court
Judge from Detroit, John Fei-
kens, decided there was substan-
tial injury to the prisoners and
labeled their treatment a "grie-
vous loss."
TN HIS DECISION (written in
late January, 1974), it was
made explicit that the procedures
employed by the "Adjustment
Committee" (which is uniform in
_ all federal prisons) was inade-
quate since it only afforded the
prisoners 1) written notice of
the charges and 2) an oportnitv
for the prisoners to make a state-
ment. Judge Feikens made this
statement regarding the proced-
ure used preceding his decision:
" . ..the process is one that
makes no effort to instill in the
inmate a sense of fairness or
So, the first 'opinion to concern
transfers within the federal pri-
son system was written by Judge
Feikens, who held that the war-
den at Milan could not transfer
or segregate a prisoner for dis-
ciplinary reasons without first
providing that prisoner a due
process hearing.
In late February Judge Feikens
issued an Order further outlining
his intent:
"Minimal Due Process must be
given to a prisoner prior to his:
0 Being placed into a more
restrictive living status (includ-
ing but not limited to segrega-
-° being transferred to another
institution (this provision spe-
cifically includes a transfer

labeled administrative);

* having his parole date ad-
versely affected;
* or suffering other substantial
deprivations (such as loss of
programs: educational, voca-
tional and rehabilitative)."
The judge went on to set forth
due process guidelines which he
felt were applicable in a prison
* written notice of the
* written notice of procedural
" a neutral, detached and con-
tinuously identical panel of
fact-finders, from which must
be excluded investigators, the
accused inmate'. case worker,
or other confidants (e.g. his
psychologist) and any one else
in superior-subordinate relation-
ship with the accuser;
0 the opportunity to remain
* the opportunity to confront
his accuser;
! the opportunity to cross-
examine adverse witnesses;
* the opportunity to present
defense witnesses;
# that the prisoner have volun-
teer or retained counsel, or
counsel-substitute; and
* a written decision based up-
on, and only upon, the evidence
presented in the presence of
the inmate at the hearing; the
mere written accusation or a
rumor dotnotaconstitute ade-
quate evidence.
THE FIELD of prisoners' rights
is a controversial topic these
days, covering issues pertaining
to due process for parole and
parole violators, conditions in
solitary confinement, the inspec-
tion and/or censorship of both in-
coming and outgoing mail, free-
dom of speech and expression
and other areas too numerous to
list. Most prisoners' rights claims
are set aside to collect dust or
are denied; and the majority of
the "victories" are usually writ-
ten so as to be vague, ambiguous
or restricted. For example, in
Sharp v. Sigler, 1969, the Court
of Appeals for the Eighth Cir-
cuit stated:
" . . .(First Amendment) pre-
cepts do not stop short in their
application at the prison's door.
Fundamental rights follow the
prisoner through the walls
which incarcerate him but al-
ways with appropriate limita-
With the growing concern over
psychosurgery, aversive therapy
(inflicting pain to dissuade cer-

tain behavior or the use of drugs
or prolonged isolation), the
START and CARE (acronyns for
Special Treatment and Rehabilita-
tive Training and Control and Re-
habilitative Effort) programs (at
Springfield, Mo., and Marion,
Ill., federal prisons, respective-
-ly) and with the opening of the
Behavioral Research Center in
Butner, N o r t h Carolina, one
more court case comes to mind
that holds great significance and
will hopefully help prisoners re-
tain their identities. The court
opinion in that case, a local one,
Kaimowitz v. Department of
Mental Health (Circuit Court
Wayne County, July 1973),
"Intrusion into one's own intel-
lect, when one is involuntarily
detained and subject to the
control of institutional authori-
ties, is an intrusion into one's
constitutionally p r o t e c t e d
rights of privacy. If one is not
protected in his thoughts, be-
havior, personality and ident-
ity, then the right to privacy
becomes fheaningless."
It's virtually impossible to call
any one thing the gravest injus-
tice carried out today by the
nation's prison systems. At pres-
ent the trend in "penology" is
to turn prisons into laboratories
where experiments can be con-
ducted to find out what steps
have to be taken to control great
masses of people, both inside and
outside of prisons. Even though
I'm for the abolition of prisons
due to their overwhelmingly in-
human qualities and ineffective-
ness, aside from being a waste
of 'money, I still work for pris-
oners' rights because I cannot
foresee the government even
considering a practical alterna-
tive to caging human life with-
out massive public outcry. Fur-
thermore, if prisoners allow peo-
ple like James McConnell (pro-
fessor of psychology at the Uni-

Daily Photo by ROLFE TESSEM

versity of Michigan and pro-
ponent of combining sensory de-
privation with the use of drugs,
hypnosis and astute manipula-
tion of reward and punishmeat
to alter behavior) to put ideas
into the heads of people like
Richard Nixon on how to create
a "perfect" society, then we'll
all be in trouble. It is imperative
that all prisoners fight to make
changes in their environments so
that prisons will be safer, health-
ier, more humane and livable
until the time comes when we
can do away with these pervert-
ed measures to destroy or de-
base persons who violate the
ONE THING is starkly evideni:
there are no laws or rights

in a prison, nor will there ever
be any as matters now stand,
regardless of any court deci-
sions, because prison officials
do what they please. In most
every instance they get away
with whatever they please. The
only way to combat the despo-
tism of prison officials is by
exposure-exposure in the courts,
by progressive lawyers, by me-
dia, and by every "free" person
who says to him or herself "What
can I do?"
While that question is being
echoed in your mind, 650 human
beings at Milan prison are in. the
process of being changed, against
their wills into non-thinking, sun-
servient bureaucrats.

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