(A) had no point (with the amount of time prisoners have on their hands, trust me, there were a lot of these)I responded to these with a standard form letter that explained the scope of the Project's mission and suggested other organizations that might be in a better position to help (ain't nothin' quite like pawning someone off on someone else, eh?). I then would sift through the rest of the letters and determine which I thought would be a good use of the Project's meager resources. This determination typically required me to get more details about whatever the alleged problem was through written correspondence and, often, prison visits (to conduct more thorough interviews and clarify key points at issue). I then would write a memorandum with my recommendations of what should be done in a particular case and present it to the Project's Executive Director. Often I would be directed to write a letter or make a phone call to the relevant authority to ask for some corrective action. This usually brought about a back and forth with the prison bureaucracy and eventually some sort of acceptable resolution. If all else failed we would then consider filing suit on the prisoner's behalf.
(B) requested services we didn't offer (e.g., help on criminal appeals) or
(C) made claims that stretched the imagination (prisoners can get surprisingly creative)
Why am I telling you all of this? Well, since my internship I've become fairly attuned to issues involving the efficacy of our correctional system. News stories along these lines usually catch my eye and, because of my experiences, I can spot a winner. What's a winner look like? Well… this one’s a gem:
A 4’1” dwarf who served 20 months for dealing marijuana and possessing methamphetamine is suing the prison he was incarcerated at for injuries he sustained as a result of negligence by the prison.
Byron "B.J." Rhodan, an aspiring rapper also known as "Lil Dirty," claims that two years ago while he was confined at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in
Now in my four months at the Project, I handled a ton of cases. Many of which involved prison guards and/or prison facilities. Few were this entertaining though. Inmates accused guards of a lot of things... overlooking violence, arranging for enemies to be near one another (let's just say shivs' aren't folklore), denying vital medical care (e.g., insulin shots and even cancer treatment), refusing to cater to religious dietary restrictions (everyone wants to be Muslim in the joint... apparently their food's better), running drugs (how did you think the smack gets in there), excessive beatings (seems to happen frequently), and even demanding sex for favors (usually more of a problem with female inmates). They also complained endlessly about shabby prison facilities... toilets that shot water up into the air (do they know people pay for that in some countries?), very large spiders/cockroaches/rats (TFB better not get incarcerated), and cellblocks without cable television (how they supposed to watch their Oz?!) .
Sometimes listening to people complain was about all we could do for them... other times the situation gave us leverage (e.g., we once got a paraplegic transferred from Leavenworth because the place has no wheelchair ramps). I can't say I ever remember a case involving dwarfs though. Wish I had had one. Writing the warden on a case like that would have been good times. Interviewing Lil Dirty might have been even better. You have to admit, the little guy seems to have a point... prison's gotta' be tough for a four-footer in a six-foot world. And shaving on that sink must have been a bitch. Not sure how much this case is worth monetarily, but I say we certainly could have had fun with it at the Project.