State cracks down on prisoner legal aid

State Department of Corrections cracks down on prisoner legal aid

Prisoners need protection

Revolutionary greetings to all the workers worldwide! When does being a laborer and doing right become the wrong thing to do? The answer is apparently when you are a prisoner working inside a prison law library in Pennsylvania.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, prisoner work, if you can even call it that, pays as low as $0.17 per hour (six hours a day, five days a week), and as high as $0.42 per hour (eight hours a day, five days a week). Anybody can do that math and see that the money is not the reason why incarcerated men, women and children work.

Some people in life simply enjoy being of assistance to other people, regardless of compensation. Also some people are excellent at their profession, and take genuine pleasure in it. Such is the sad case of Mr. Jules Jetté, a middle-aged French-Canadian man who his dedicated his legal knowledge to explaining the complex intricacies to a large variety of prisoners: from the illiterate, mentally challenged, emotionally disturbed, juveniles, elderly, handicapped and many more. Now, he himself is in need of help!

Mr. Jetté, who has been incarcerated at SCI Houtzdale for over fifteen years and who has worked faithfully as a legal aid worker for his fellow prisoners daily for nine years, is now facing job removal. That’s right, I said job removal, for being of selfless service to others. What other reason would the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections remove him from his position of service to prisoners? Mr. Jetté has not had any misconduct reports as a prisoner his entire time here, no exaggeration. He does not even have any negative block card (housing unit) reports at all, which is something very hard to do under imprisonment for any length of time.

Sadly, the Department of Corrections does not care about the work Mr. Jetté does. Quite a few prisoners that benefit from Mr. Jetté’s self-taught legal knowledge have attested to his good character and effective service. However, SCI Houtzdale’s security office has taken notice of prisoners’ improved success rate in court with Mr. Jetté’s help, and are now retaliating against him and those of us who support him.

The public, whose taxes go to fund the prisons, including prisoner (poverty) wages, have a right to know  what is going on here. America is supposed to guarantee equal protection under the law and access to the courts. Yet thousands of prisoners are abandoned by Pennsylvania lawyers, have had ineffective lawyers, or have been barred from being heard in courts (a “jusrisdictional bar” from the courts).

That is where Mr. Jetté comes in: where there are already scarce legal resources for prisoners at SCI Houtzdale, the administration instead wants to remove him. Both Mr. Jetté and all those prisoners that will be affected by his job removal are desperately in urgent need of individual workers and labor unions to flood the Governor’s and DOC Secretary’s offices with letters, faxes, emails and phone calls voicing concerns and outrage over the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections plans to remove a prisoner employee from a job that they have been working for nine years with perfect behavior and work effort.

In solidarity with Mr. Jetté

Contact PA Governor Tom Wolf:

  • Phone: 717-787-2500
  • Fax: 717-772-8284
  • Mail: Office of the Governor
    508 Main Capitol Building
    Harrisburg, PA 17120
  • Online: https://www.governor.pa.gov/contact/

Contact PA Department of Corrections Secretary John Wetzel

  • Email: ra-crpadocsecretary@pa.gov
  • DOC Phone: 717-728-2573
  • SCI Houtzdale Phone: 814-378-1000 (address calls to Barry Smith)

Sample email or letter message: Please do not allow SCI Houtzdale to fire inmate legal aid worker Jules Jetté! The service he provides, for which he is severely underpaid, is of great assistance to inmates who wish to exercise their Constitutional right to redress of grievances in the courts. Save Mr. Jetté!

 

 

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