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January 24, 2010

A crappy case concerning prisoner poo before New Hampshire Supreme Court

Though easily the basis for a lot of bad dirty jokes (as this post has already excreted), this story from the The Concord Monitor actually raises a host of interesting legal issues concerning prison conditions and criminal assaults.  (Potty tip: How Appealing.)  The piece is headlined "Prison waste is matter for court; Justices to rule if feces on floor equals assault," and here is how it gets started:

It's a crime for inmates to throw feces, urine and blood at jail and prison staff. The question before the state Supreme Court is whether throwing it on the floor for staff to clean up also qualifies as assault. A lower court has said no. The state attorney general's office says yes and has asked the high court to decide. Meanwhile, prison and jail officials are watching.

"This is part of daily life we have to be on guard for," said Jeff Lyons, spokesman for the state's prisons. He said officers deal with inmates throwing their bodily fluids several times a year, most often in maximum-security units. "You never know when it's going to happen."

Lawmakers passed the current law forbidding the throwing of bodily fluids in 2000 at the request of prison officials tired of being targeted by inmates. During legislative hearings on the bill, corrections officers described being spit on, being soaked with the contents of a colostomy bag, and having urine thrown in their eyes and mouth.

"We are talking about some kind of behavior that borders on animalistic," Denis Parker, then of the State Employees' Association, told lawmakers at the time. "And more than that, we are talking about potential dangers of getting some real infectious dangerous disease that could probably at some point take your life."

But what if the corrections staff isn't actually hit? The question before the state Supreme Court involves six inmates from the Hillsborough County jail who were indicted in 2009 on several counts of assault by prisoner. The indictments allege the six men committed assault by throwing feces and urine on the jail floor for corrections staff to remove.

The law under which they were charged says it is illegal for inmates to "harass" corrections staff by causing or attempting to cause "employees to come in contact with blood, seminal fluid, urine or feces by throwing or expelling such fluid or material." Attorneys from the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office argued the men's actions qualified as assault because the men intended to harass the jail staff and knew employees would come into contact with the fluids when they cleaned the floor.

The men, Timothy Spade, Ralph Carey, Jarrell Wilson, Jason Connolly, Ryan Freeman and Peter Gibbs, challenged the charges in superior court. Their lawyers argued the indictments did not adequately allege how jail officers had actually come into contact with the fluids. They also criticized the assault law and its use of the word "contact" as too vague. The lawyers asked the court to dismiss the charges against all six men.

January 24, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Permalink


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This is a disputation worthy of D.scotus (no relation to S.cotus).


Such worthless debates of no practical usefulness gave Scholasticism a bad name, deservedly so.

The rules have to change to allow painful corporal punishment of the inmates. He can either clean up the mess or get caned until he changes his mind. The caning would be in private to prevent its getting glamorous from attention of others.

Until such rule changes, judges and legislators preventing the proper control of prisoners by their coddling over-regulation of prison guards, should be called to come in from home. Have these criminal lover lawyers clean up the mess.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 24, 2010 1:55:55 PM

This case raises some fundamental questions worthy of study if possible. There was a segment on California's death row on one of the TV prison programs. Now the guards have to wear protective gear, including face protection, when serving meals. They didn't used to have to because there was a grudging mutual respect. The cells also have a small-holed mesh over the cell bars now. What happened?

Are these inmates in the present matter acting like "animals" because they are treated like "animals"? Or are they acting like "animals" because the system is too lax and coddling? Or maybe they act like "animals" because of the potential of being charged with assault when there was no assault; in other words, because the guards are more interested in power than respect for the law. Are the guards trying to use the law as a weapon? Put another way, maybe this case is just another example of everyday power struggle, a pissing contest. Another factor could also be lawmaking based on propaganda rather then rational law, which would also deteriorate respect for the law. Federalist can probably offer more possibilities on the other side of the equation.

Whatever the cause and effect, an evidence-based study would be interesting. Why the change in the last 30 years or so? Saying these inmates did this only because they are "animalistic" doesn't solve or explain much.

Posted by: George | Jan 24, 2010 1:59:11 PM

George: What are you, a child?

Imagine the consequences to the prisoner if he flung feces at a guard in 1930. He would be just beaten. If he could not learn, he would just be killed and buried out back with the other hundreds of prisoners who could not learn from corporal punishment. As late as the 1960's he might take a header down a flight of metal steps, and everyone would know why he died.

Now, every disciplinary action must be videotaped, and it is the guard on trial and punished.

Thank the criminal lover lawyer for this poop problem. Make the criminal lover judges and legislators come in from home to clean up the messes they caused by their hobbling all discipline in prison.

If you cannot have corporal punishment in prison, what is the substitute? Correct. Much higher levels of staffing. So the guard unions are in on this deteriorated discipline situation. Make a union official come in from home to clean up the mess he caused.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 24, 2010 2:08:06 PM

Disgusting yes. There is no dignity in Maximum security prisons. There is also a great deal of guard contact with fecal material. When inmates go to the visitors room - and when they leave the visitors room they are strip searched and body cavity searched. A body cavity search can be very painful if that is the choice.

Posted by: beth | Jan 24, 2010 2:26:08 PM

2010 - 30 = 1930.

That explains it.

Posted by: George | Jan 24, 2010 11:46:50 PM

Hey, S. Clause, is this 1930s enough for you?

Fake electrocution of prisoner detailed in internal Corrections Department report

"The entire ruse was allegedly conducted to frighten a second inmate..."

Posted by: George | Jan 24, 2010 11:55:32 PM

Obviously it is not the 1930's. The PC indoctrinated leaders of the prison punished the guards, instead of beating the sex offenders everyday, whether they needed it or not.

The union probably sat back. Its interest lies in more staffing, a substitute for cheap corporal punishment.

The public has been sold a bill of goods by unions, lawyers, and alleged health care providers. All are left wing ideologues generating government make work jobs. If physical controls get ever more restricted, they get more jobs. There is an inherent, irremediable conflict of interest.

This phrase, conflict of interest, is an euphemism for armed robbery, but by middle class people. This conflict, a crime, a theft, justifies bringing street justice to the intellectuals, the financiers and the leaders of this PC movement.

At this time, "Stop acting like a fool." Actionable. Verbal abuse of prisoner by guard. Even negative verbal remarks will be prohibited. I do not see any difference between Democrat or Republican administrations, in the rates of advance of PC.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 25, 2010 1:51:10 AM

i'd have to agree. law or no law i'd have moved them to a private part of the prison and then proceeded to educate them on the fine points of edequite with a rubber hose.

the next time it happend i'd use a baseball bat.

third time would be DEATH!

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jan 25, 2010 2:02:58 AM

You mean like this:

Inmate says jailers ordered him to attack another inmate

A lot of wasted lives and another dead.

Posted by: George | Jan 25, 2010 2:03:03 AM

I don't see the point of arguing over whether the staff came into contact with the material. I would have thought statutory law would abrogate the common law definition of assault. Of course, I'm also somewhat surprised that they are bringing new criminal charges over this rather than in-house disciplinary proceedings. I was under the impression that even inmate on inmate murder often goes without prosecution. Oh well, you get the COs involved and you're playing in the big laegues I guess.

That however brings up an interesting question, does the state actually have the power to criminalize the throwing of bodily extracts when there is no intent, willful or otherwise, to hit someone?

I would absolutely expect non-criminal disciplinary actions to be okay, but I'm not sure if even the police power is broad enough to reach such conduct. Could flow from improper disposal of dangerous materials I suppose.where they get to use a lower standard of proof.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jan 25, 2010 3:21:42 AM

When you ban effective corporal remedies, people search for a go around. They have poorly controlled surrogates do it. No video cameras needed, nor any investigation of the guards when it is prisoner on prisoner violence.

I strongly oppose the latter. Because the prison has total control of the bodies of both the victim and of the attacker, prison should be made to pay for all damages. If a pattern of repeated violence can be shown to be within the knowledge of he prison, the prison should pay exemplary damages.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 25, 2010 3:57:51 AM

If someone in the Army threw poo he/she would be cleaning latrines for six months.

Posted by: mpb | Jan 25, 2010 6:36:18 AM

the sad thing george is that they probably DID do it. But that is a whole nother kettle of fish.

The point here is there are rules to follow. Those setup by normal people. You don't thow things at people PERIOD. The only exception to this would be self defense.

You violate that rule you get punished. Failure to stop the violation calls for a heavier punishment till it finaly get's through a thick head.

Posted by: rodsmith3510 | Jan 26, 2010 8:27:02 PM

The criminal lover lawyers running the criminal law have protected their criminal client. The guard could not even criticize the prisoner verbally, without being second guessed by the lawyer. He could lose his job for this verbal abuse, "Stop acting like a fool."

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 27, 2010 12:51:13 AM

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