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Jailhouse Lawyer Denied Medical Appliance to Block his Lawsuits

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Message B. Cayenne Bird
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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.

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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 (more...)

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