|The information on this webpage was compiled by the CCADP without the previous knowledge or consent of the prisoner. The CCADP is refusing to remove any Arizona prisoner materials from the internet until the law banning prisoners from the internet has been challenged and defeated, to ensure ALL Arizona death row prisoners are allowed to have their voices heard... Prisoners contacting the CCADP for removal under threats from the DOC receive a copy of the following: CLICK HERE|
Beau Greene has
not contacted the CCADP for a webpage or pen pal request.
There was controversy
several years ago surrounding Beau Greene's pen pal request on a commercial
pen pal internet site. (According to published reports,
Greene has been off the
internet since the end of 2000.) As a result of pressure by the family of the victim in this case, the State of Arizona has passed a law (HB 2376) that deprives both prisoners, human rights
and advocacy groups like CCADP of their First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.
On July 18, 2002, the ACLU filed a complaint in the Arizona courts, suing to have this law declared unconstitutional: Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty vs. Terry L Stewart
|"The law started when the wife and daughter of the victim of a homicide came across a picture of her father's killer, Beau Greene, and he was talking about how he was such a great lover of cats," said Gary Phelps, chief of staff for the Arizona Department of Corrections. "They were very upset, and she [the daughter] felt that her privacy had been violated." - From ABCnews.com|
State Pen Mightier Than Speech?
By Julia Scheeres 2:00 a.m. July 18, 2002 PDT
The day Stardust Johnson
ran across her husband's killer on the Internet, holding a kitty cat and
searching for female pen pals to alleviate his death row boredom, was the day she went from a
mild-mannered widow to outspoken victims' rights advocate.
"I curled up into a fetal position on the floor, screaming," said Johnson, whose husband Roy was on his
way home from giving an organ recital at a Tucson, Arizona, church when he was kidnapped and
bludgeoned to death with rocks by a meth addict. "He didn't mention that he'd brutally murdered my
husband and thrown his body into a wash."
Johnson's outrage led to the creation of a 2-year-old Arizona law that makes it a criminal offense for
inmates to publish personals, pen pal ads, financial aid requests or even their artwork and musings on
Critics charge that the ban violates inmates' free speech, but prison officials say they're doing their duty:
protecting victims and their families from additional emotional distress, and the public from professional
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Thursday in the federal district court of Phoenix
challenging the law's constitutionality on First Amendment grounds.
"This isn't about security, it's about suppressing unpopular speech," said David C. Fathi, the staff
attorney for the ACLU National Prison Project. "Basically some people in Arizona didn't like the fact that
prisoners were able to express themselves on the Internet, so they're trying to shut them up."
The subject of prisoners' rights is complicated, Fathi said, with security indeed being a valid concern for
"The short answer is that prisoners forfeit rights that are, by their very nature, incompatible with
incarceration -- freedom of movement, freedom to gather together with persons of one's choosing,
freedom to engage in one's preferred occupation, etc.," Fathi said.
"They do not forfeit rights that are not incompatible with incarceration -- freedom of speech, freedom to
practice their religion, etc. These latter rights may be limited only to the extent necessary to maintain
It's not the first time the ACLU has fought to defend prisoners' First Amendment rights. In Nevada, the
ACLU successfully sued state officials on behalf of an advocacy newsletter called Prison Legal News
when it was banned from cells. And in California, the ACLU is currently challenging a Pelican Bay State
Prison policy that prohibits inmates from receiving any document printed from the Internet.
Victims' rights groups argue that free speech protections don't apply to prisoners.
"These people are bad dudes," said Frank Parish, a board member of the National Organization of
Parents of Murdered Children, whose stepdaughter was abducted from the parking lot of a Houston
grocery store and murdered. "It doesn't bother me at all that they don't have their Bill of Rights. They
forfeited those when they made the deliberate choice to violate the law."
Meanwhile, prisoner websites -- especially death row inmate sites -- are flourishing. Although most
inmates don't have Net access themselves, they snail-mail material to friends and activists who post it
online for them, enabling them to reach millions of potential sympathizers with their pleas of innocence,
requests for financial or legal aid, denunciations of guard abuse and lonely-hearts ads.
And that worries Gary Phelps.
The chief of staff for the Arizona Department of Corrections said his department conducted an
investigation of the state's death row subculture and found a warren of lying, conniving baddies.
"They were using the tremendous worldwide reach of the Internet to fleece people and run scams from
prison over which we had no control," Phelps said.
Phelps said several death row Don Juans were using the Web to drain the bank accounts of lovesick
women, pledging affection to multiple female fans at once in an elaborate con game to see which inmate
could bilk sympathizers out of the most money.
Then there was the stranger-than-Hollywood case of death row inmate Floyd Thornton. In 1997,
Thornton's wife Rebecca, whom he met through an Internet personals ad, arrived at Arizona's
maximum-security facility in Florence brandishing an AK-47 and tried to bust her hubby loose as he was
weeding the prison vegetable garden. She was killed in the shootout with guards, but not before fatally
plugging her husband by accident as he sprinted toward the fence.
For all these reasons, cutting off prisoners' Internet access to the world seemed like a logical step to
Phelps, who insisted that protecting "vulnerable" women from manipulative inmates was not patronizing.
"It's a public safety measure to protect people from their own stupidity, like the laws against drinking and
driving. It's the government's duty to protect people from the con artists of the world," he said.
Arizona inmates are given three weeks to remove their material from the Internet or face misdemeanor
charges, although most are punished by having their "good time" credits or visitation rights revoked, he
said. So far this year, 53 inmates have been cited for their online content. (Arizona has 29,000 prisoners,
and roughly 130 are on death row.)
But the Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty, the largest purveyor of Web space to condemned
prisoners, has not only refused to take down Arizona inmate sites, but has indeed pledged to create a
page for every death row dweller in the state, with or without their consent.
"They're sentenced to death, they're not sentenced to silence," said CCADP co-founder Tracie Lamourie.
"As far as we are concerned, the letters they send requesting to take down their material were written
under duress and (we) won't honor them."
For every letter the group gets from a prisoner asking to be taken off the site, the CCADP shoots off a
response stating that the materials are the property of the CCADP and won't be removed. Lamourie said
the group has been thanked by inmates for the bold action.
She downplayed criticism that inmates misrepresent themselves, noting that the public can easily
search news or state prison sites for the particulars of their crimes. Her goal is to give death row
prisoners an outlet to speak freely, she said, not to fact-check every account for accuracy.
"We're giving prisoners a voice. Americans should know who they're killing."
Victims's wife Stardust Johnson speaks before the Arizona House Of Representatives Forty-fourth Legislature - Second Regular Session
January 18, 2000
Stardust Johnson testified
in support of H.B. 2376. Ms. Johnson stated that she is the widow
Music Professor Roy Johnson from the University of Arizona. She explained that her husband was
brutally murdered February 28, 1995 and that this bill had a personal impact for herself and her
family. Ms. Johnson stated to the Committee that allowing access to the Internet for incarcerated
persons provides a very dangerous potential. She pointed out to the Committee that the Internet is
available to people in all countries and by allowing prisoners access to the Internet, we are allowing
them access to the world.
Mrs. Johnson reminded the
Committee that these incarcerated individuals committed crimes against
others, violated the rights of others and are often skilled manipulators because they are sociopaths or
psychopaths. Through the Internet, they would have the ability to prey on the most vulnerable
people of our society particularly children, who are most adept at using the Internet. She pointed out
that teenagers also are very adept at using the Internet for a variety of purposes and we know this
from recent activities involving school shootings. Inmates would also be able to prey on lonely,
vulnerable women who frequently are induced to sending gifts and/or money and sometimes even
succumbing to marriage.
Mrs. Johnson reminded the
Committee that it is very important to keep in mind that these persons
are incarcerated for committing specific crimes. Children who might be encouraged to correspond
with a prisoner, may not know the crime for which the prisoner was incarcerated. It could have
been rape. Mrs. Johnson informed the Committee that there was a book written recently entitled,
“The Last Victim.” She explained that it tells the true story of the journey into the mind of a serial
killer. It was written as part of an assignment for a college freshman who began corresponding with
death row inmates, principally serial killers, who then began calling him after he gave them phone
numbers. This became a very frightening experience for him. The potential for this reoccurring is
very great and we must guard our children against this possibility.
Mrs. Johnson explained that
she had researched one prison pen site that is listed on the Internet
called PrisonPals.com that lists personal ads from prison inmates. She stated that these prisoners
have paid for the privilege of appearing on this Internet site. Mrs. Johnson pointed out that this
raises the question of money and who is funding these sites. She explained that the portrayals of
these inmates is manipulated and designed to attract other persons. The photos do not represent
prisoners because they are not in prison photos.
Mrs. Johnson provided the
Committee with copies of the personal ad for Beau Greene and
explained that he is the person who murdered her husband. She explained that in his photo, Beau
Greene is holding a kitten and is portrayed as a rather submissive person. She pointed out to the
Committee that this is the same man who brutally beat and murdered her husband.
Mrs. Johnson stated that
this person has the opportunity to communicate with the world, inviting
people to correspond with him because he is lonely and bored and in no way does this ad identify
the true character or the dangerous nature of this person who committed such a heinous crime.
Mrs. Johnson concluded by
stating that there are other prisoners who are not violent in the way that
this person is but who may be released and still have the potential for harm against the person with
whom they have corresponded.
In response to inquiry from
Representative Gray, Mrs. Johnson explained that she downloaded
information from PrisonPenPals.com but it is unclear as to who pays for the ads. She stated that
they charge the prisoners $19.95 for one year on the Internet. She added that they also invite people
to send in names of prisoners who would like to be on the list. There is an alphabetical directory for
male prisoners and one for female prisoners, resumes on line and there is information for filling out
the ad. Mrs. Johnson informed the Committee that Mr. Greene placed his ad last February and
stated that it would be interesting to know what kind of benefits, such as mail, gifts or money, he has
received as a result of his placement on this site.
Chairman McGrath explained
that her attention to this bill was peaked by an article that appeared in
the Arizona Republic on January 2, 2000. (Attachment 3)
In response to inquiry from
Representative Miranda, Kathi Knox explained that the bill is specific
when it states that a prisoner’s access to the Internet would be prohibited unless authorized by the
Department of Corrections. She explained that if the access had something to do with an
educational program, the Department would monitor it.
Alan Ecker, Legislative Liaison,
Arizona Department of Corrections, addressed further inquiry from
Representative Miranda and explained that right now, inmates do not have direct access to the
Internet, rather they have contact through a third party. He explained that the inmate sends mail to
one of the web site providers, the web site provider posts that information on the Internet and as
responses are received, that web site provider sends mail back to the inmate. He explained that this
would not effect educational opportunities but would discontinue the opportunity that inmates have
that is very often manipulative.
Representative Miranda asked
for the position of the Department of Corrections regarding this piece
of Legislation. Chairman McGrath addressed that issue and stated that governmental agencies do
not use public monies to lobby. She explained that Mr. Ecker was present for information purposes
only and can state that the Department is not in favor of the problems created by this issue. She
called attention to the fact that in the article (Attachment 3), a spokeswoman from the Department of
Corrections stated that this issue does create problems and the Department would be interested in
supporting legislation giving authorities greater control over inmate contacts.
In response to inquiry from
Representative Schottel, Mr. Ecker explained that prisoners do not have
direct access to the Internet but do have access through those third party providers.
Vice Chairman Carpenter moved that H.B. 2376 do pass. The motion passed by a roll call vote of 5-0-0-1. From: http://www.azleg.state.az.us/legtext/44leg/2r/comm_min/house/0118piu.doc.htm
CHICAGO, IL -- The
Internet is helping death-row inmates and other prisoners to plead their
cases and seek pen pals, sparking outrage among many families of victims
and creating a new debate about the rights of the growing number of prisoners,
The New York Times reported.
According to the Times, no American prison allows inmates access to the Internet, but prisoners use third-party services, usually for a fee, to reach out to a potentially huge audience. In Texas, dozens of inmates like Michael Blue, who is on death row, appear on Web sites saying they were wrongly convicted of murder.
One inmate in Alaska, Askia Ashanti, appears on a Web site looking for "a pro bono attorney or $5,000 to $10,000 in funds to hire an attorney."
And Beau Greene, who is imprisoned in Arizona, appears on a Web site in a picture, cradling a cat and asking for pen pals. Mr. Greene is described as "bored and lonely with a surplus of time."
Victims' rights groups complain that it is humiliating for victims and their families to see prisoners on such Web sites. The groups also complain that some people browsing the Internet might begin
correspondence with violent criminals without knowing the details of their crimes.
In the face of such criticism, officials in New York and Arizona have enacted policies or laws that forbid prisoners to use third-party Internet service providers. Washington and other states have debated
But many civil libertarians say these measures violate the First Amendment rights of inmates. Eleanor Eisenberg, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said her group was
considering filing a lawsuit against the Arizona measure.
"It clearly impinges on an inmate's First Amendment right to communicate," Ms. Eisenberg said. "It also chills the rights of third parties who have committed no crimes."In one case, Eisenberg said,
prison officials censored the mail of an attorney who had sent his client legal documents that he had downloaded from the Web.
The Internet has also become a tool in championing the causes of individual inmates, such as Mumia Abu-Jamal, who defenders contend was wrongly convicted of killing a police officer in Philadelphia in 1981.
At least a dozen Web sites carry details about the case and history of Mr. Abu-Jamal. One of the largest sites, operated by a private anti-death-penalty group in New York called Refuse and Resist, describes the inmate as "a prominent radio journalist" being punished because he "allowed the angry and anguished voices of the oppressed onto the airwaves."
A page on the Web site calls the police account absurd and says that witnesses in Mr. Abu-Jamal's defense were harassed by law enforcement authorities. The site invites people to join marches around the country on Mr. Abu-Jamal's behalf. It also encourages Web site visitors to print and send the posting to others.
Except in very few cases, inmates have not been able to raise sizable amounts of money through the Internet, despite their frequent requests for contributions, or to secure pro bono lawyers to defend them.
Brian Henninger, a spokesman for the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, said that group had used its Web site to "build a campaign of support for inmates." The anti-death-penalty group has
posted online petitions, as well as sample letters to Congress and state governors asking for appeals and clemency for inmates.
The Canadian Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty allows any American inmate to post background information at no cost. And some defense lawyers have used the Internet to plead the cases of their clients.
In most cases, the prisoners are simply looking for people to write to them, a way of whiling away the hours in their cells.
American prison authorities have long read inmates' mail, except for legal correspondence and letters to elected officials. But in recent years, prisons have made it more difficult for inmates to have contact
with people on the outside, said Steve Bright, the director of the Southern Center for Human Rights, an advocacy group for inmates' rights.
"It used to be viewed as a positive to stay in touch with the outside world, since the idea was that people would be rehabilitated and then returned to society," Mr. Bright said. "Now the attitude is to make the prisons as punitive as possible and make the prisoners as miserable as possible."
Stardust Johnson cringed when she saw a photograph of her husband's killer on the Internet, pleading for female pen pals to end his death row boredom.
"I looked at the site and
felt outrage and pain," said Johnson, whose husband Roy Johnson, a University
of Arizona music professor, was abducted, robbed and beaten to death after
he attended a concert in
Tucson in February 1995. Beau Greene was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death.
"I felt double the grief because it just picked me up and put me back to the intensity of what he had done, that he should be alive, advertising on the Internet while my husband is dead."
The pen pal site, which said it was "pleased" to present Greene, bears a photo of the condemned killer cuddling a cat. Greene wrote that he was looking for "fun" and wanted women to write to him.
"I really can't believe Roy
is gone," Johnson said. "He was the most gentle, kind, soft-spoken person.
That this filthy scum should be alive and advertising, saying he's bored
and life is dull and holding a fluffy
cat was just nauseating."
Site triggers outrage
Greene's Internet personal ad spurred Johnson to lobby on behalf of a bill that includes provisions banning inmates from sending or receiving mail through so-called prisoner pen pal sites in cyberspace.
Arizona corrections officials are more edgy about inmate pen pal relationships because of a bizarre caper in 1997 when a woman, who had met her death row husband on the Internet, attempted to break him out of the state's maximum-security prison. The woman and inmate were shot to death.
But there are both constitutional and practical questions as to whether the proposed law, if enacted, could even be enforceable.
Ferreting out Internet mail generated from the Web, separating it from regular mail and monitoring sites for inmate ads would require a full-time team of investigators, corrections officials say.
A call for prisoner isolation
Besides that, the state is under a 1973 court order that forbids it from opening 90 % of inmate mail.
And prisoner advocates say it is cruel to keep prisoners isolated from the outside world and cut off any limited human contact they might have. They say prisoners have a right to receive mail, and people have a right to send them letters.
Still, family members of murder victims would like to see the bill passed -- even if the measure is mostly symbolic.
Numerous prisoner Web sites
There are numerous Internet sites -- some run by human rights groups, ministers and moneymaking entrepreneurs -- that find pen pals for inmates. One site operated by a Missouri minister even maintains regular communication with a convicted serial killer that she calls "Jack."
Type in the words "prison pen pals" or "inmate pen pals" in any search engine and numerous sites will appear. Prison Pen Pals.com., Cyberspace Inmates, Penn-Pals-Prison Inmate Service Network, Transcend the Walls and Cell Pals are but a few.
The sites routinely list
personal ads from inmates, including many on death row around the United
States. They plead for letters from the outside world to help fill their
"lonely" hours. Some are looking for
women. Others solicit donations to their defense funds and ask people to send them stamps. Others say they just want to hear from the outside world. Some inmates even have set up Web sites devoted to their cases and to proclaim their innocence.
However, no prisoner has direct access to Internet access or e-mail in Arizona. The prisoners place their ads on the pen-pals sites, which collects mail and sends it to the inmate.
Lonely criminals or connivers?
But are these heartfelt ads from imprisoned men and women who crave contact with the outside world, or conniving attempts to reach out to someone that might help them? That depends on whom you talk to.
"You can't arbitrarily cut off contact with human beings on the outside," said Tracy Lamourie of the Canadian Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, which has a Web site that provides free listings to about 500 death row inmates around the United States. "It doesn't help anybody to have them isolated 24 hours a day and getting more and more angry."
Numerous Arizona inmates, including many on death row, place pleas for letters on the site.
Lamourie said she has never received complaints from any of the people who write to death row inmates from the list provided on her site. She said that she regularly writes 18 inmates. She also said that by being able to publish letters on Web sites, inmates provide the public with a glimpse into prison conditions.
"I think Arizona should spend their time and effort and taxpayers' money on doing things that actually help the prisoner rehabilitate into a vital part of society when they are released," said Priscilla Pletcher, who says her Prison Pen Pals.Com site lists more than 6,000 prisoners from 6 countries.
"Prison has grown into such a horrible big business, and one out of 70 Americans is in prison. I find this shocking, especially since we once were billed as 'the land of the free.'"
Prison suspect scams
But the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) has a more suspicious view of the inmates -- especially death row prisoners -- in Cyberspace.
"For the most part, it is
a scam," said Camilla Strongin, chief spokeswoman for the ADC. "Inmates
want to get something from someone. Most of our research on death row inmates
reveals that they have a
subculture on the outside that support them."
The ADC says it has "documented cases" of individuals getting in pen pal relationships with inmates and ending up "mortgaging their homes and maxing out their credit cards." Investigators said that in some cases, women have sent the inmates sexually explicit audio and photographs.
Gary Phelps, the chief investigator for the ADC, said he has interviewed women who have placed thousands of dollars into inmate bank accounts or defense funds. Many of these women gravitate to Florence, where the state's 118 death row prisoners are housed.
ADC officials admit that while they would like to see some restrictions, they aren't sure how to go about writing a workable state law or even policing if one is passed.
Woman, lover killed in gunbattle
In July 1997, a woman who had met a death row inmate through an Internet pen pal ad and later married him attempted to break him out of prison -- a plot that ended in death for her and her death row husband.
Rebecca Thornton tried to break her husband, killer Floyd Thornton, out of the state's maximum-security prison in Florence as he was tending to an inmate vegetable garden.
Wielding an AK-47 assault rifle, Rebecca Thornton was killed in a gunfight with guards. But before she died, she shot and killed her husband.
But Donna Hamm, who runs a prisoner advocacy group, blamed the escape attempt on former Gov. Fife Symington, who paraded the condemned men outside in chains to show how tough he was on crime.
'Subculture' of death row
The brazen escape attempt prompted the ADC to focus on what it has called the "subculture" created around death row inmates.
The probe detailed how condemned men and their girlfriends keep in contact with one another and sometimes hatch plots for escapes and to smuggle contraband inside the prison. They even used secret "codes" in their letters, investigators said. And the ADC believes women have deposited money into prison bank accounts.
"We found out that they are
all in Florence and getting together to have coffees and teas," Phelps said.
Please write to:
Beau J. Greene #123048
Arizona State Prison - Eyman
PO Box 3400
The CCADP offers free webpages to over 500 Death Row Prisoners
Contact us for more information.
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