August 27, 1997 in Idaho

Mother Plans Rally To Protest Conditions At Louisiana Prison Aclu Says It Has Received Over 50 Complaints From Idaho Inmates Serving Time At Facility

Associated Press
 

A march and rally in support of Idaho inmates held in a Louisiana prison is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 7.

The rally from the Boise Public Library to the Capitol is part of the effort by a Middleton woman to help Idaho prison inmates held in Louisiana because of overcrowding in the Idaho system.

The group contends the men are being denied basic rights and something must be done about it.

Barbara Jardine of Middleton launched “Family and Friends of Idaho Inmates,” in response to allegations of prisoner mistreatment.

“Their human rights are being violated,” Jardine said.

Idaho prisoners held in Basile, La., claim they have been beaten by guards, maced, denied medical treatment and fed mostly rice and grits, she said.

Jardine received a letter from her son at the prison in Basile complaining of conditions and later became aware of similar letters sent to other families. The organization has about 30 members.

The American Civil Liberties Union supports the group’s efforts. ACLU of Idaho Executive Director Jack Van Valkenburg said transferring prisoners out of state compounds rehabilitation problems.

“We oppose transferring inmates out of state,” he said. “You want them to have contact with family.”

The ACLU has received almost 50 letters of complaint from Idaho prisoners in Louisiana, he said.

In a letter last week to Corrections Director James Spaulding, Van Valkenberg said inmates complained of being bitten by a brown recluse spider and poisonous spiders, frogs and other insects inside the facility. Inmates also complained that medical grievances go unanswered.

Unhappiness over their situation sparked a riot by about 100 Idaho prisoners that damaged windows and bunk beds at the Basile prison this past month. The inmates were among about 300 Idaho prisoners who arrived at the Louisiana prison in June.

Twenty of the prisoners were subsequently moved to a small jail at Marksville, La., Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Mark Carnopis said. The transferred prisoners were troublemakers, he said.

Idaho prisons are at maximum capacity. Currently 300 Idaho inmates are housed at Basile, 200 in Minnesota and 248 in Texas. More than 200 inmates are held in county jails throughout the state.

Idaho prison officials visited the Basile site early this month and reported that conditions have improved. An outside physician now visits the prisoners weekly and is on-call at other times.

Carnopis said Basile prison officials are responding with “very strong efforts to remedy (our) concerns,” he said. There have been no problems reported with Idaho inmates in the Minnesota or Texas prisons, he said.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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