A legal initiative by the Disability Law Center to gain access to mentally ill inmates in solitary hit an obstacle on March 7, when Judge David Nuffer ruled against an emergency motion challenging the prison's decision to not allow an attorney to visit clients.
DLC attorney Aaron Kinikini was not allowed to see Uinta 1 inmate Jeremy Haas because, a prison official told him -- citing an unwritten policy -- Kinikini had a misdemeanor conviction in his past. Instead, a second attorney, Laura Boswell, was given access to Haas.
Haas's story, along with other inmates battling mental health concerns and the effect of solitary confinement, was told in 'Lost in the hole' last fall.
Kinikini is the lead attorney on an initiative by the DLC to shed light and improve conditions of mentally ill inmates held in solitary. He filed a motion with federal court Judge David Nuffer in late 2012, but, according to Kinikini, Nuffer ruled at the beginning of this month that "Haas' inability to consult with his attorney about Eighth Amendment violations was [not] exigent enough to warrant emergency injunctive relief."
For now, it appears that Kinikini will have to rely on other attorneys at DLC to conduct interviews with inmates, while he prepares a law suit pursuing the prison's policies on punitive isolation as "cruel and unusual." It could very well be a long haul.
Meanwhile inmate Paul Payne, who was featured in a recent cover story called Prison Made is emptying out his legal files in his cell in preparation to be moved out of state. During a recent visit, he told a City Weekly reporter that Ryan Allison, one of four inmates with mental health issues featured in Lost in the hole, was continuing to have problems. Allison had pulled all his hair out, according to Payne, after the former had been verbally tormented by other inmates.