Ninth Circuit: Damages Required for Compelled Religious-Based Treatment

By Mark Wilson

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that damages are required, as a matter of law, when a parolee is incarcerated for objecting to compelled participation in a religious-based drug treatment program.

Citing “uncommonly well-settled case law,” the Court of Appeals found in 2007 that the First Amendment is violated when the state coerces an individual to attend a religious-based substance abuse program. See: Inouyev.Kemna, 504 F.3d 705 (9th Cir. 2007).

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) contracts with Westcare, a private entity, to provide drug and alcohol treatment for parolees in Northern California. Westcare, in turn, contracts with Empire Recovery Center, a non-profit facility. “Empire uses a 12-step recovery program, developed by Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, that includes references to ‘God’ and to ‘higher power.’”

Barry A. Hazle, Jr., an atheist, was incarcerated due to California drug convictions. His parole conditions required him to complete a 90-day residential drug treatment program.

Prior to his February 26, 2007 release from prison, Hazle had asked prison and Westcare officials to place him in a non-religious treatment program. Westcare officials directed Hazle to Empire.

When Hazle realized Empire was a religious-based program, he repeatedly objected to Westcare officials. They responded “that the only alternative to Empire was a treatment facility whose program had an even greater focus on religion.”

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Exploitation Inspires a Better Publisher

By: Anthony Tinsman

Best Selling author Kevin Bullock hadn't ever written anything before serving time in federal prison. His first novel Daddy Dearest was published by Triple Crown Press in 2003, after serving two years. Daddy Dearest became a hit with the well-known Urban Market publisher and launched his career. Two more novels rapidly followed but Bullock soon found himself in a legal argument with Triple Crown. Their ambiguous contracts had not been reviewed by IP (Intellectual Property) Attorneys and there was no means for mediation or re-negotiation once Triple Crown failed to report sales or pay royalties on time. It got so flagrant that Bullock threatened suits against the publisher until they relinquished all rights, and ceased printing his books in 2004. He decided to avoid publishers and incorporated Isness Publishing LLC, in Durham, NC., with his sister. Bullock’s fans followed eagerly. 

Bullock’s criminal career was peppered with minor offences until his arrest in 2002. The federal indictment promised time in prison, 90 percent of all federal offenders receive a sentence of imprisonment (U.S. Sentencing Commission, 2012, Sourcebook). Rather than dwell on what could not be changed, Bullock used his time to take a new direction. Writing had always interested him. But his success continued to attract less savory characters as well. In 2013, after self-publishing 15 novels and enjoying good fan support and family stability, Bullock received more bad news about Daddy Dearest, yet again. Someone had pirated his work and was stealing his customers.

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Eighth Circuit: No Qualified Immunity for Detainee’s Overdose Death

By Mark Wilson

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held on September 20, 2013 that an Arkansas jail guard was not entitled to qualified immunity for his deliberate indifference to a detainee’s serious medical condition which resulted in the detainee’s death.

On December 18, 2008, Saline County deputy sheriff Stephen Furr arrested Johnny Dale Thompson, Jr. During the arrest, Deputy Furr discovered an empty Xanax bottle that indicated it had been filled with 60 pills two days earlier. Thompson, who was slurring his words, admitted to taking medication and slept in the patrol car, but was easily awakened at the jail.

Jail guard Ulenzen C. King conducted Thompson’s booking process. King noted that Thompson appeared intoxicated; he asked to sit down but nearly fell out of the chair. He was unable to sign his name and “couldn’t even answer questions that Officer King was asking him.” King wrote “Too Intox to Sign” on the booking sheet.

Sometime after Thompson was placed in a cell at 7:42 p.m., another detainee alerted King that Thompson needed help, but King did nothing.

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Michael Collins: Prisoner and Author

Image courtesy amazon.com

Image courtesy amazon.com

By Anthony Tinsman

Award winning author Michael Collins shares something in common with nearly half of all federal prisoners who are serving sentences for drugs (U.S. Department Of Justice, 2003), he has little to no criminal record. Collins literary work has followed a trajectory uncommon for most writers in prison. Literacy heavy hitters like Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Edward Bunker and Damian Echols all built careers around their experiences within the Criminal Justice Systems of their time. What makes Collins’ work unique is that his novels aim outside the themes of prison and addiction; consequently they demand commercial and critical attention for their characters and profound subject matter. He is fully aware of this and uses it to draw editors’ attention. His success is also due in part to the power of positive press.

Collins began his 7 year sentence in 2010, after eluding authorities for several months. He had been supplementing his college tuition and his personal habits by selling drugs on campus. His first novel Hamster Wheel Manifesto was released in 2012 by Rio Norte Press and is a pseudo-memoir of the events leading up to his arrest. He began writing the book in prison.  After submitting it to seven publishers without a response he re-submitted to seven more. Rio Norte simply accepted the book with this message, "We can publish it. But only in e-book?" And a career was born.

In 2014 Collins third book was released by Walker Publishing, Graded Expectations. It explores the personalities involved with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Reviews for his work have grown from readers on Amazon to Film Directors like Harmony Korine and Paul Constant (editor of The Stranger). Considering the trauma of losing Georgia Jones (Lady Bug Press), one of his most influential supporters, to cancer in 2012, Collins has continued with unerring professionalism and persistence. His newest book Book Of Prosper will be out soon. Prison is a great incubator for anyone serious enough to use the time wisely. "Books are prestige, to help rejoin society. There's no other tool like them." Collins says. In-between working on his next book he mediates using yoga and teaches GED study classes in Forrest City Low (BOP). 

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Submit your stories for consideration. Stories containing writing tips, experiences with writing a book, publishing or promoting a book from prison are requested. Submissions should be 500-800 words. Include a signed agreement allowing the editor / author and future publishers to use your story. Send typed or handwritten submissions before January 1st to: Mr. O (Attn: Submissions) 649 N. Rupple Rd., Fayetteville, AR., 72704

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Author:  Self-portrait of Anthony Tinsman

Prisoners Unlikely to Benefit from New, Highly Effective Hepatitis C Treatment

By Greg Dober

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a blood-borne virus that is typically spread through intravenous drug use (i.e., sharing needles), tattooing with non-sterile needles, and sharing razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers or other hygiene items that may be exposed to blood. It is often a chronic disease and, if left untreated, can lead to severe liver damage.

Recent good news in the battle against HCV, in the form of two new drugs that are highly effective in eliminating the virus, is tempered by the fact that the companies that produce the drugs have priced them at $60,000 to $80,000 per 12-week course of treatment. This high cost prices the medications beyond the reach of most prison and jail systems – which is especially troubling considering that a substantial number of prisoners are infected with HCV.

The new drugs, approved by the FDA in late 2013, are simeprevir, branded as Olysio and manufactured by Janssen Therapeutics (a Johnson & Johnson company), and sofosbuvir, branded as Sovaldi and manufactured by Gilead Sciences. Based on clinical trials, Sovaldi has an 84-96% cure rate while Olysio has an 80-85% cure rate. Both drugs are used in combination with other HCV anti-viral medications, peginterferon alfa and/or ribavirin, and their cure rates vary depending on HCV genotype – specific variations of the virus.

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