Maine State Prison: Oppressively limited access to legal and educational resources (3-25-14)

Drewry, Brandon Boone



Brandon B. Drewrv [ID]. Maine State Prison. 807 Cushing Road. Warren, ME. 04864-4603 Maine State Prison: Oppressively limited access to legal and educational resources (3-25-14) Imagine that you were conducting research, and then producing in type-finished form documents discussing opinions, arguments and perspectives (yours and those of others) for the purpose of conveying your insights and reasons in support of your objective to another person or persons, particularly such as professors or judges, attorneys and paralegals, toward the end, of course, of eliciting a particular response - an understanding/opinion-ruling, grade, or action in relation to subject matter involving a great deal of information that has been accumulated over a period of years, AND, you can only read/review pertinent material and then type a few paragraphs or pages of text per week because you only have access to needed research resources and word-processing tools in two, at most four short periods lasting between 40 to 65 minutes each, totaling no more than about 4 hours per week, and that's if you're lucky. It would of course be impossible for you to come even close to conducting necessary research and producing the work-product that would be capable of eliciting a favorable critical review. In a legal matter involving a serious civil or criminal matter where a person's future life and liberty hangs in the balance, to prevent their access even to those resources they would need in order to produce work-product of a quality that could be considered as placing their efforts on the outer edges of having a realistic chance of gaining any measure of a favorable outcome from the civil, criminal or appellate courts, is a horrible act of oppression, especially when you consider that every year countless persons are acquitted of criminal charges, and as plaintiffs or appellants prevail in civil actions or criminal appeals. The individual's ability to present petitions towards the end of correcting professed injustices should be a fair process, but on FAR too many occasions it's not. If the effective management of your life requires that you produce a considerable volume of type-finished hardcopy or digitized documents AND you had no choice but to forgo 80-90 percent of that work altogether - for an entire year- in order to produce sufficient work on the few other projects, what would happen; what would your life be like at the end of that year? IMAGINE the frustration of not being able to produce that other 80-90 percent of work that with reasonable access to resources could have been done in just a few days or weeks while also completing the other 20 percent as well - all in no more than a month. At Maine State Prison, the library and Law Library are in the same space separated by a wall and door in a large building referred to as the "Activities Building" where prisoners have access to a variety of other activities such as an outside jogging track, sports and weight lifting-exercise equipment, religious services, an education dept., etc. In 2½ hour periods per day prisoners have access to all sections of the activities building 7 days per week except for these two that are arguably the most vital to prisoners rights and rehabilitation: the Education Dept, and library - law library, both of which are closed on weekends, holidays, every Thursday and at least one to three of the remaining four days per week, because the librarian and Education Dept, personnel are classified as "non-essential staff." Including Thursdays, nearly all scheduled days when the library is closed are in violation of the fundamental fairness that is codified in case and statutory law. Additionally, the library closes 15 minutes before the rest of the activities building. SIDEBAR: At Maine State Prison, convicts are cooped up in increasingly densely packed cellblocks (recently increased from 56 to 66 to 79 men) for 90-95% of their waking lives' - that is unless they're giving themselves over to being slaves to the Maine prison industrial complex working in jobs that either do or do not pay a wage that in some small way justifies their efforts. Overly dense convict warehousing foments multiple forms of conflict and is in a word, rather two: outrageously rotten. Unlike county jails where sentenced inmates are serving less than one year terms, prison is essentially a small town where convicts spend years, often many. It is a place where these individuals should, from sunup to sundown, have opportunities - access to programs and resources that will aid in their developing an improved worldview toward becoming better prepared to meet the exceptionally steep obstacles and challenges most of them will face upon rejoining mainstream society. (95% of the prison population returns to mainstream society. Approximately 170-225 prisoners are released annually from Maine prison facilities). What Maine State Prison does with convicts on a daily basis results in an outrageous disservice to the unaware and often indifferent public. (This comment branches off into an article regarding prison reform where the matter concerning library-law library such as discussed on this page <though very significant> is but one small part). The library/law-library, like the rest of the activities building resources is never accessible for the 2½ hours scheduled because "mass movement" - when prisoners are released from their housing unit for the walk and sign in process to the activities building (about 5 minutes) does not occur until 20 to 60 minutes - or more - of the "rec-period" has passed. The following is the library schedule of a California prison in 1971: CTF Library: Sun/Mon - closed all day. Tue, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat: 8:15 to 11:15 a.m.; 1:00 to 4:00 and 6:30 to 9.00 p.m.; an average of 42½ scheduled hours per week opposed to the 10 that are scheduled per week at MSP, as stated herein, that rarely reach 5-6 hours. Moreover, as described on the next page, the word processor access is even less. (Robert J. Minton Jr. "Inside-Prison American Style." p.19 ©1971) The library/law-library is closed on Thursdays because the librarian goes to the Special Management Unit (SMU) to pass out paperback books to prisoners in solitary confinement (23 hour lockdown). At normal prisons this procedure is done - very easily no less - by prisoner trustees in a manner that ensures sufficient security measures. As stated, the other scheduled days when the library is closed are rarely ever valid. Also on a regular basis for any of several reasons or proffered excuses the librarian simply does not show up to open the library on at least one or more days every week, or for some other reason (Staff training, staff meetings, town meetings, so-called security measures, or, just because, the library is closed. Sick days and car problems etc., are very common).When the librarian fails to show up to open the library no one questions whatever excuse she gives because - other than the prisoners needing access - no one actually cares. I cannot remember the last time when the library was open close to 60-70 percent of the scheduled hours that are already way too limited to begin with. Less than 5 percent of the reasons for the library being closed - same as with security code facility lock-downs - are valid. Just this past Friday I heard the librarian joking around with one of the Activities Building staff about what excuse she would conjure up to not open the library on Monday, right in front of myself and two other men she knows desperately need access. In the law-library section of the library there are four (4) computers equipped only with for legal research. In the main library are four (4) computers equipped only with Microsoft Word. These resources must serve the needs of 850+ prisoners. Access to the word-processing computers is achieved by appointment only in sessions scheduled for 65 minutes (This tiny scrap of time is often cut down to 40 minutes - or less - because of the above-stated late releases for "mass movement"). As for producing quality work-product in type-finished form; posted in front of the computers is Library Computer Rules, two of which state: • Do not save documents on the computer. • Save at your own risk. The documents may be deleted or modified at any time without notice. Prisoners can save whatever documents they're working on but without password protection. "Flash-drive" portable document storage devices are not available. (At MCC prison in Windham, Maine, prisoners are given "floppy-discs" that are kept in a file by a library clerk). With Maine State Prison's system any prisoner or staff member can read and copy other prisoners confidential legal documents. In order to resume work in progress the prisoner must gain access to the same numbered computer (1-4) where their document(s) are or are not saved - a period separated by days or even a week or more. The only way to ensure that the prisoners' writing remains private is to erase entire documents immediately after printing them. Imagine the frustration of having to throw away an uncompleted page of work, as well as having to retype an entire finished page because of any number of tiny errors that are commonly made, especially when - as is always the case for writers in the MSP library - the work is rushed. In the "computer lab" in the Education section of the activities building at all times sit fourteen (14) computers equipped with Microsoft Word, 70 to 90% of which gather dust daily. In order to print documents the prisoner/student must obtain a floppy disc from a clerk whereon they save the document to be printed after which the disc is erased. There is one disc to serve all students. Very few prisoners who do not qualify for Adult Basic Education/G.E.D. can gain access to the Ed. Dept, except to engage in programs that are for the most part wasted effort towards the ends of the skills building that actually results in lowered recidivism. To become enrolled in post-secondary education without paying $220.00 is almost impossible. (Only certain and few prisoners are provided with this opportunity of enrollment without pay). As Chris Hedges says: "People have no value beyond their monetary value." The $220 only covers 'Liberal Arts' courses toward an AA/BA degree - which raises subject matter of another article that currently sits in hand drafted form gathering dust in my cell concerning inadequate academic and particularly vocational programs and resources available to prisoners at MSP). Under the herein-stated conditions a lawyer or professional student could not conduct needed research and produce quality type-finished work product in a timely manner. How can it be justified; the imposition of such conditions upon stress racked convicts with far more limited education? March 25, 2014 -Brandon Boone Drewry [ID] Maine State Prison P.S.: Adding insult to injury, the prison canteen purveyor sells a typewriter with no editing features that has no market value in mainstream society for $249.00. Print ribbons cost $8.40, about 300 percent over mainstream retail, and are only good for about 25 single line spaced pages of text. Another of the many examples of the utterly pathetic MDOC "bottom feeding." AND, no one who has ordered this machine over the past two months has actually received it - with no explanation. In 2012 the librarian position in MSP's budget drew $68,000. With limited training a GED graduate could manage this library - very easily no less.

Author: Drewry, Brandon Boone

Author Location: Maine

Date: March 25, 2014

Genre: Essay

Extent: 4 pages

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