March 12, 2007

Death Row Inmate Punished for Claiming Innocence

When does big brother go too far? As recently reported on the blog, see, State Moves to Silence Death Row Inmate’s Claims of Innocence, the State of Florida has recently taken action against death row inmate Mike Lambrix in a clearly unconstitutional attempt to silence Lambrix’s claims of innocence.

Since that article was posted the Florida Deputy of Corrections has formally subjected Lambrix to institutional disciplinary action. Lambrix was charged under a prison rule that prohibits inmates from placing ads soliciting pen pals. This draconian rule was enacted a few years ago under the pretense that the public needs to be protected from prisoners who exploit them for money. Most prisoners do not have any means of earning an income and little if any outside assistance and many do attempt to build friendships with pen pals often met through pen pal ads placed on the Internet. A small percentage of those inmates might have abused these friendships by soliciting money under false pretenses but in most cases the otherwise isolated inmates are simply trying to reach out to the real world and meet a friend willing to help them through their ordeal.

Big brother has taken it upon itself to crown prison officials as the great protector of the public, allowing the Department of Corrections to erect formal rules that prohibit inmates placing ads or otherwise “soliciting” for new pen pals. See, Florida Administrative Code, Chpt. 33-210.101 (9).

If an inmate is found to have placed an ad to solicit pen pals then they are subjected to inter-institutional disciplinary actions in the form of 30 days in “lock up” (disciplinary confinement) and up to six months of mail privilege suspension, during which time they are completely isolated from the outside world, prohibited from receiving or sending out any mail.

This by itself is obviously intended to isolate prisoners from the free world. Think about it – what is the real reason that prison officials would not want inmates to meet new friends? What possible reason would prison officials have to try to even further isolate prisoners from the free world? Is it really about protecting the public from being exploited by prisoners or is it really about trying to minimize contact with the free world so that prison officials will no longer have to worry about being embarrassed when they cross the line and beat an inmate to death?

Is it just a coincidence that this rule did not even exist until after a group of prison guards at Florida State Prison brutally beat death row inmate Frank Valdes to death? How did the media and public find out that inmate Valdes was murdered by prison guards? Inmates wrote there family and friends as well as the media… so eliminate the inmates ability to contact the free world by methodically eliminating their outside contacts and then prison officials can beat and even kill prisoners with complete impunity. Anyone interested in the true motivation of this rule intended to further isolate prisoners should read Valdes v. Crosby, 450 F. 3d 1231 (11th Cir. 2006).

The true insidious motive of this rule is made clear in the action now taken against Lambrix. By creatively applying this rule prison officials – at the request of the state attorneys – have charged Lambrix with violating this rule because Lambrix had a My Space site that dared to publicly advocate his innocence. On February 21st, 2007 Lambrix was brought before the prison disciplinary team at Union Correctional Institution in chains and shackles and faced the kangaroo court.

Lambrix attempted to argue that under no conceivable interpretation was that My Space profile in any way soliciting pen pals. The only intent and purpose of that My Space page was to direct people to his web page “” that argues his factual innocence by showing how the 20th Circuit State Attorney’s Office deliberately fabricated the entire wholly circumstantial case brought against him.

However, the disciplinary team decided that by merely having a My Space account Lambrix was seeking new friends and thus guilty of violating the prison mail rule. When Lambrix argued that he hadn’t even posted enough information for someone to be able to contact him, the disciplinary team responded by saying that once someone simply sees his name on the My Space profile they can easily log on to the Department of Correction’s own website and find out Lambrix’s contact information. See, FL DOC and click on Offender Search in the menu bar.

In finding Lambrix guilty of the alleged violation the Florida Dept, of Corrections has crossed a clear constitutional line. The true intent and purpose of imposing disciplinary punishment upon Lambrix is clearly to silence him and punish him for publicly claiming his innocence.

If the state can now silence inmates by twisting this rule to circumstances where inmates attempt to publicly claim their innocence and speak out against the system then how will the public know what is really going on within the walls of America’s prison system? The First Amendment protects free speech and prohibits any agent of the state from subjecting any person to punishment for exercising their right to free speech.

Imagine if you were wrongly convicted and condemned to death (See, Condemning An Innocent Man) and your only hope of justice was to reach out to the free world and expose the injustice perpetuated against you by the state – only to then have the sate retaliate and punish you for doing so. Lambrix has now been sentenced to 30 days in disciplinary confinement (“the hole”) and 30 days of complete mail privilege suspension during which time Lambrix will not be able to send out of receive any mail.

Is this the America we are becoming? If something as fundamental and sacred as our constitutional right to free speech and to be protected against governmental retaliation can so easily be stripped from those citizens who most need to exercise that right – the victims of injustices perpetuated by the state – then where will that inevitably leave all of us and what kind of society will we become?

I ask you all to now please take a moment of your time to contact the Secretary of the Florida Dept. of Corrections, James McDonough at the following email and telephone number and ask him to immediately release Lambrix from the hole and this rule itself taken off the books.

Secretary McDonough

(850) 488-7480

Remember, the true purpose of this rule is not to protect the public but to isolate prisoners so that the public will not know what is really going on inside America’s prisons. Again, if you have any doubt, you must read the Valdes v. Crosby case and you will see why Florida prison officials are attempting to isolate and silence its prisoners, especially the ones on death row. Please contact Secretary McDonough immediately and express your outrage that any inmate can be punished in this draconian manner and remember the eternal words of President Lincoln ..”All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”