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Bpp Vs. Michigan Prisons

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David Johnson is a twenty-one year oíd black revolutionary who was working with the National Committee to Combat Facism and the Black Panther Party in Detroit. He s being held in the State Prison for Southern Michigan at Jackson under a sentence of three to four years for felonious assault as a result of the court actions against the Detroit Panther 15.

The conditions of the prisons all across the country are atrocious, and are just beginning to come to light and be recognized by the people as a problem that must be dealt with. But it is a problem that will be dealt with only if the people make enough noise to force the necessary changes. David Johnson and his attorneys are filing suit in U.S. District Court naming Perry Johnson, Warden of Jackson Prison, and Gus Harrison, Director of the Michigan Corrections Department, and all their "agents, assistants, assigns, employees and successors," as defendants in the case.

David was first incarcerated in Jackson in July, 1971 and soon transferred to the Michigan Training Unit in lonia, a detention center for younger prisoners. He was transferred to the Michigan Youth Reformatory at lonia in September, 1971. While at the reformatory he discussed prisoner's rights with other inmates and the possibility of court action to enforce them. His trial attorney sent him a pamphlet containing the rules and regulations of the Michigan Department of Corrections while he was there.

In mid-October authorities at the Reformatory confiscated the pamphlet saying it was contraband. In just about a week's time David Johnson was transferred to Jackson and placed in a segregation cell where he is now, locked in a small individual cell for twenty-three hours a day, with only a forty-five minute walk in the exercise yard each day.

The suit lists other ways Johnson is being punished:

(a) Plaintiff is not allowed to participate in any of the educational, rehabilitational, vocational, or recreational programs offered at Jackson;

(b) Plaintiff is not allowed to have certain items in his possession, such as his own typing paper, which prisoners in the general population are allowed to have;

(c) Plaintiff's mail to and from his attorneys is opened, read, and copied;

(d) Plaintiff is not allowed to use the law library at Jackson. He may have one law book brought to him in his cell on each Monday through Thursday. Often the book brought to him is not the one he requested.

After fourteen days in segregation he was brought before a board that reviews the cases of people being held in segregation or isolation every thirty days. He was accused there of "participation in subversive activities" and was told that he would continue to be held in segregation because he was a "militant black." David was not allowed a pencil to take notes during the hearing.

The suit charges that the decision of the board was il legal because no written charges were ever brought against him, no witnesses or evidence were produced, the plaintiff didn't get an opportunity to properly respond or to present evidence or witnesses on his own behalf, or to cross examine his accusers, he was never allowed to be represented by counsel, and he had no knowledge of how to appeal the board's decision.

The suit goes on to say that the actions of the prison ". . . are not justified by any legitimate, compelling state interest, are not necessarily related to considerations of institutional security, but are part of a pattern and practice to harrass, intimidate and punish Plaintiff in an unconstitutional and unlawful manner . . . As a direct and proximate result of the malicious and intentional acts of Defendants, Plaintiff has suffered continuing deprivation of his civil rights under the First, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, financial loss, humiliation, mental and emotional pain and suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life and liberty, all past, present and future."

What the suit actually seeks is an injunction against the defendants from continuing to act in the manner they are accustomed to and that David Johnson be transfered back to the Youth Reformatory and be awarded $25,000 compensatory damages and $25,000 exemplary damages, plus attorneys fees, interests and costs.

Suits like these are extremely important in the fight for a humane penal system in this state. As long as no one challenges the snakes who are in control now they will continue in their diabolical ways. We in the RPP are involved in similar suits through John Sinclair and Pun Plamondon and the experiences they have gone through and are still going through. Unless all of us together understand and define the problem and demand action nothing will change. It is our actions out here that will give the brothers and sisters in prisons everywhere the strength they need to go through their days.


–Genie Plamondon, RPP