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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  B. Cayenne Bird
Bio: B. Cayenne Bird
Date:  July 10, 2008
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Paralegal Eric K'napp Denied Medically-Mandated Appliance by Salinas Valley Prison Officials
An important part of the present prison reform should be oversight and protection of the jail house lawyers, paralegals and whistle blowers who exercise their rights while incarcerated.

No one is allowed to actually become a lawyer while serving a prison term, but those who have some legal training and attempt to stand up to a corrupt system are often very courageous and very talented. A prisoner is paid only 9 cents to 22 cents per hour, so very few of them can afford to hire attorneys.

An important part of the present prison reform should be oversight and protection of the jail house lawyers, paralegals and whistle blowers who exercise their rights while incarcerated.

No one is allowed to actually become a lawyer while serving a prison term, but those who have some legal training and attempt to stand up to a corrupt system are often very courageous and very talented. A prisoner is paid only 9 cents to 22 cents per hour, so very few of them can afford to hire attorneys.

These legal eagles are certainly mostly all patriots who are literally risking their lives in order to exercise their right to seek relief from the courts. They have no place to go for help when the prison administrators and guards frequently retaliate against them for filing 602´s, habeas corpus petitions and other legal actions such as lawsuits. Their chance at freedom and at the very least, humane treatment while in prison, depends on their ability to have access to the courts.

There is one such talented young man who earned his paralegal certificate from the Blackstone Institute while being incarcerated. Eric K'napp is at this very moment being tormented, blocked and denied his right to answer an important lawsuit that he filed over similar treatment at CSP Los Angeles County Lancaster. He has a deadline of July 17, 2008 to file objections to case CV 06-7702-JVS before US Magistrate Judge Rosalyn M. Chapman.

But Salinas Valley Prison Warden Michael Evans and Asst. Warden Eric Moore have put him into ad seg "for his own protection", which is where most prisoner litigants do too much of their time. The punishment for prisoners who litigate are particularly harsh, especially when they win an action, which K´napp did recently. Can´t have that, a prisoner victory that points to the fact that the criminals are often wearing badges.

It is my opinion that Eric K'napp needs protection only from the guards and prison administrators, not from any inmate who allegedly wrote "an anonymous note" threatening his life over a group 602 that K'napp filed trying to get proceeds from the bottles and cans purchased by visitors to be given to the food vendor so that he would lower his prices. Eric K'napp is quite popular amongst inmates and their families on the B yard after having several recent successful legal actions, which is always grounds for prison administration's retaliation, particularly at Salinas Valley Prison. Because of that success, he will be moved out of the prison, especially with other actions against abuses at Salinas Valley Prison coming up in court. Every effort will be made to divide-and-conquer the many participants and supporters of solid and appropriate legal actions on behalf of all prisoners to prevent them from winning .

Several years ago, Eric K´napp was so determined to become a paralegal that he wrote tens of thousands of pages with a pen filler which permanently deformed his right index finger. He has a medically-mandated chrono for a personal typewriter that is supposed to be available to him no matter where he is housed, even in ad seg. The documentation makes it clear that K´napp is never to use a pen filler or another writing instrument in his right hand again. He cannot write quickly or legibily with his left hand at all, which blocks him from being ableto meet a legal deadline that is very important to him and to everyone concerned about abuses at CSP Los Angeles County, Lancaster.

By denying K'napp his medically-necessary appliance of a typewriter, Warden Michael Evans and Asst Warden Moore are violating the terms of the Armstrong class action lawsuit and 42 U.S.C. 12131 (Title II of the Americans With Disabilities Act).

Not only is K'napp's well-documented need for a personal typewriter being denied but his cell has no electricity with which to use it. And he´s been hobbled in this situation for with no means to communicate and no electricity for three weeks. K'napp was given a 13" television set but not his medically-mandated typewriter. How ridiculous is that? In addition to several violations of the Armstrong class action lawsuit, which I will address in more detail in my next column, there are many violations of the Gilmore case which also impedes his access to the courts.

In order for Eric K´napp, and every other prisoner trying to find relief in the courts from the Salinas Valley Ad Seg (hole) to be able to submit well-researched objections to meet legal deadlines, there needs to be books with case histories and/or a searchable database which is fully accessible to them. There is one computer in this poorly concocted wretched excuse for a legal library but the inmate may not search it himself.

He must ask a prison employee to look up a specific case, which he can rarely ever find because the books that he needs aren´t even in the library. If the inmate doesn´t know the name of the case he needs to reference, the clerk won´t use a keyword search on his behalf, meaning that he can´t submit a proper argument.

These are clear violations of the Gilmore case and just one more way that prison employees do everything possible to block prisoners from really being able to defend themselves.

It´s ironic that the lawsuit that Eric K´napp needs to respond to is the one he filed for similar abuses at CSP Los Angeles County Lancaster in 2005. At that time, he was also put into the hole "for his own protection" – which mysteriously always happens when the UNION holds a successful rally or has any of our important work televised. K´napp was denied even a pen filler or writing utensil of any kind then too, and was completely blocked off from mail or the ability to make phone calls. In order to get him out of the hole at CSP Los Angeles County, where he was starved, psychologically tormented and denied access to the courts for many months, we had to bring more than 100 people to protest the prison. (link with photos below).

There had been five suspicious deaths there at CSP Lancaster during this time period in 2005, one of which happened while Eric was in the hole. The careless double-celling of Eddie Arriaga who was intentionally put in with a mentally ill, violent prisoner in a tiny ad seg cell predictably resulted in his death. Arriaga's cell mate stomped him to death after many hours of drawn out torture to which the guards did not respond.

There is a pattern to the abuse of prisoners who litigate, and that systemic pattern of unconstitutional treatment is taking place AGAIN right now. Eric K´napp must have full accessibility to his medically-mandated health care need of a personal typewriter or this important case will be thrown out.

People traveled to CSP-Los Angeles County, Lancaster in the middle of nowhere to draw media attention to Eric K´napp´s torment and five suspicious deaths the day the Pope died April 2, 2005. Hundreds of people from every occupation imaginable came to draw attention to the abuses that day including doctors, teachers, social workers, activists, journalists on and off duty, many of whom have a loved one in prison themselves. They all still want this lawsuit against the lawbreaking guards and prison administrators at CSP Los Angeles County, Lancaster to go forward. They want answers and accountability for those responsible for what happened at that dark, evil place where abuse is an everyday occurrence.

Nobody comes out of prison as a better person but some facilites are more adept at breaking people than others. CSP Los Angeles County Lancaster, Corcoran and Salinas Valley Prisons are even worse because they are occupied with prison guard gangs known as the "Green Wall" and another one called "The Guard Assault Task Force" who need to be exposed and brought to justice for what they do to the prisoners.

Right after our rally in front of CSP Los Angeles County over the suspicious deaths and abuse of Eric K´napp in April, 2005, the Inspector General Matt Cate did miraculously cause the Warden Michael Harrison to be demoted from Warden to a guard at Chino Prison. The head of "The Guard Assault Task Force, Lt. Charles Hughes was fired for his role in Arriaga´s death. Both should have been criminally prosecuted for the murder of Arriaga and others, not to mention the torture of Eric K´napp in my opinion and of all who witnessed what took place. This is one of the few times that any consequence at all was delivered to a warden and prison administrator by the Inspector General Matt Cate, but it certainly was no more than a slap on the wrist. When Assembly member Sharon Runner ran for office after Lt. Hughes was fired, she took money from him for her campaign. Obviously there is no oversight at CSP Los Angeles County when the prison guards own the state politicians from that area.

Eric K´napp's lawsuits are important. There is no good reason why he is being denied his medically-mandated typewriter and access to a properly set up legal library. We can only hope that the Judge gives him the extension that he needs and perhaps someone can step in who is monitoring Armstrong and Gilmore compliance and insist that the law gets respected. If Warden Michael Evans and Asst. Warden Eric Moore have their way, Eric K'napp will be tormented and blocked in the hole for 90 days. This is not the only legal action that he has in progress.

The primary goal of the prisons seems to be to break the body, mind and spirit of those being inhumanely and unconstitutionally sentenced and confined. If not for the courageous prisoners who litigate, who would ever know or care what they´re going through every day? All of this in the name of "God" and the name of "Justice" taking place in taxpayer-financed institutions beyond the radar of the media. Perhaps it is time for another protest at Salinas Valley Prison to make the point that people DO CARE about what happens to Eric K´napp and all jailhouse lawyers and whistleblowers. The safest way of course, is for the families of the prisoners to organize and hire lawyers on the outside who will take these cases forward. The families have the power of the vote and can end the oppressive prisons, or greatly cut back on their existence at any time that they decide to set up a funded voting lobby, but the uneducated and poor do not really understand how the system is set up.

Here´s the link to the day we protested over the suspicious deaths and torment of Eric K´napp at CSP Lancaster on April 2, 2005 after approximately six months of begging then Warden Michael Harrison to stop tormenting him. We want this lawsuit to bring justice to everyone who was a party to what happened.

We want the terms of the Armstrong and Gilmore cases to be instituted and respected at every prison in California. There are prisoners in ad seg at Salinas Valley Prison who have been there for NINE MONTHS while being told they are awaiting a transfer. During this time, their access to courts, communication with their children and family members is cut off, they may not use the telephone. Their mail is blocked and tampered with. .. It appears that ad seg is cruelly being used as permanent housing.

This situation needs immediate intervention and there needs to be a place to go.

for those who stand up for their rights and the rights of others via litigation in the future. There are more links at the bottom of this page. In spite of the pope dying that day, the television and newspaper people did give us some press coverage. This lawsuit is important to every California prisoner and the three million potential voters related to them. There is no reason why Eric K´napp should be blocked and abused for his talents.

My next column will deal with other violations of the Armstrong case that Eric K'napp is now suffering "for his own protection" including placement in a freezing cold room, stripped of all his clothing and put on display for 48 hours straight while being ridiculed by the guards. The "cold rooms" are another pattern of unconstitutional torment frequently used against prisoners who successfully litigate in an effort to break their spirits.

We can never have too many subscribers to the UNION Daily Newsletter who want to stand up against abuse, inhumane conditions and do actual campaigns and lawsuits.

email to find out how can you can become an activist for change. 6500 people can change any law, elect or recall any politician from office, less workers cannot make the 150 day deadlines required to get initiatives on the ballot. Get off your apathy. Prison reform cost people a great deal of suffering and financial sacrifice which continues today.

Rev. B. Cayenne Bird


P.O. Box 340371

Sacramento, Ca. 95834

B. Cayenne Bird

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Biography - B. Cayenne Bird

B. Cayenne Bird is a 45-year veteran op-ed journalist and publisher. A descendant of Mary Todd Lincoln, and General Andrew Porter, she is passionate about human rights and criminal justice issues. A mother and grandmother with advanced degrees in Journalism, Liberal Studies, and Humanities (Cultural Anthropology) she has focused on prison reform making great strides in Calif. supporting the landmark Plata-Coleman case for a decade which resulted in major prison reform. She writes scholarly articles too but prefers op-eds.

Read other commentaries by B. Cayenne Bird.

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