Song Pick: “Paul Revere” by Beastie Boys
Have you ever heard the saying: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”? So what do you do if you’re a prisoner and the prison officials are intentionally violating your constitutional rights? You stand up for yourself and refuse to fall for their B.S.
In December of 2013, an overreaction by a high-strung prison guard led to a use-of-force incident against me at the Stafford Creek Correction Center. Of course, I wound up in the hole, charged with three major infractions. Knowing that prisoners have the guaranteed right to obtain witness statements upon request (Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974)), I requested a witness statement from my cell partner, whom had witnessed the entirety of the event leading up to the prison guards using force against me. What better evidence than an eyewitness statement to belie the one-sided version being reported by the coppers, right?
Except that Stella Jennings, the Disciplinary Hearing Officer, obstinately refused to obtain the witness statement I had requested. After 39-days in the hole, Stella found me guilty in a farce of a hearing. Naturally I appealed, and I specifically addressed the due process error of Stella refusing to obtain the requested witness statement from my cell partner. On appeal, Associate Superintendent Eric Jackson acknowledged that I had requested a witness statement which wasn’t provided, yet still refused to intervene. He affirmed Stella’s finding of guilt. Not to be lackadaisical in my armchair-patriotism, I wrote directly to the Prison Disciplinary Process Coordinator, Michelle Walker. I told her, “[i]n an abundance of caution, I direct your attention to the fact that a witness statement was requested from” my cell partner. Despite my cogent complaint, Michelle Walker also refused to intervene. She also left the guilty finding intact.
So I filed a civil case directly in the Court of Appeals, Division II. I specifically claimed the due process error of failing to obtain the witness statement I had requested. After the Attorney General’s proverbial diversions and stall tactics, on 27 September 2017 I received a letter in the mail. From Michelle Walker, Prison Disciplinary Process Coordinator. Apparently, there HAD been a due process error in Stella’s refusal to obtain the witness statement I had requested back in 2013. Imagine that. Based upon the due process error, the guilty finding was vacated and the infractions were expunged. More than three years after the fact.
Our public servant prison guards are exactly that: servants. Because they often disregard the oath they swore (to support the constitution), we need to stand up for our own constitutional rights and enforce them through the Courts. So either bow down to your purported public-servant-masters or put your nuts on the chopping block and make your record, because I assure you of one thing: he who fails to assert his rights has none.
KNOW. YOUR. RIGHTS!! My civil case can be found at: State of Washington, Court of Appeals, Division II, Case No. 49929-1-II.