April 14, 2009 Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners

(contains shocking photos)

I attended the meeting and made what little presentation that I could since we only had five minutes each and many of us got cut off, we felt, before five minutes… shocked!

It was the most explosive meeting that I have ever been to. 20 people were in Las Vegas… 21, I’m told in Carson City.
In Las Vegas, the atmosphere was electric!

Parents and relatives made very emotional… to take care of a brother’s health problems at Ely and said to Mr. Skolnik words to the effect that she was going to be his biggest nightmare… about substandard dental care for a son… a young woman whose son died years ago told his story… she wept along with members of the audience… a woman could not visit her son in Ely because they think she is a felon, but she is not… a mother said they should ask for food donations from groceries… and the clothing issue came up… size 16 shoes for a son who wears 9 1/2? and so much more… a California nurse with nobody in NDOC asked for compassion and better health care… four Pahrump residents came to ask the governor to stop the building of a CCA prison in their town… a prisoner from NDOC years ago said that the co/s were overworked… Mr. Hinton slammed the commissioners for not taking responsibility and action… a mother in tears told of High Desert State prison only allowing fifty visitors during visiting when NV prisoners need to keep family ties so badly and that families have to wait in line for an hour and a half to get in… another mother asked to have all the wardens at Ely fired…

[an inmate shot inside the NDOC prisons]

Two correctional officers in Las Vegas, who are humane (one who has a law suit against the department himself) were there. They could not comment publicly, but let me know afterwards that they are for firing Skolnik and McDaniels.

Perhaps the high point was Ralph Kenmore’s testimony (see his story on our website… http://www.nvpv.us… under Read Postings. NDOC kept him inside much longer than he should have been… presenting the documents to prove it. He was brilliant… just released 30 March 2009!

Kim’s reading of Marritte Funches’ accounts of life at ESP was awesome… Tonja presented only a tiny portion of inmate problems, but she put 14 prisoners’ accounts on the record, she said… Anyway our gal Kim in Las Vegas got to finish Marritte’s entire letter. It was also very emotional for everybody.

I got a retired attorney to read part of a gal from Holland’s letter… putting it on NVPV today, too, but, she got to it later after making her couple minutes, so she only covered the mission statement, which she throught was the most important… to confront commissioners with the fact that they were not doing their job for health care.

I personally put it in the hands of Robert E. Walsh to the position of Deputy Secretary of State for Southern Nevada…. along with a copy of Maritte’s letter, as well.

You could hear a pin drop as Kim read Marritte’s letter. It was awesome.

People clapped after the testimony for several people, including mine, for which I was grateful, but attendees in Carson City told us that they turned off the sound during the clapping. Clapping and shouting out had never happened before, except once at a CURE meeting about 10 years ago when Director Crawford came to speak to parents and loved ones just after she came in as director. High hopes then, but little change ever occured.

[an inmate in NV prison, beaten]

I think that it went fabulously well. I believe that there were at least six people, maybe seven, who called for Skolnik’s being fired (including me… well, I said we need new leadership in the director’s office and at Ely…) See below for my complete statement… that I doubt they will ever read!

Why the vote to oust Skolnik did not come up, as discussed last meeting. The co’s said the commissioners would do it after the meeting. After so many asking for Skonik’s and McDaniel’s firing, one would think that they will surely be gone. But, yesterday Peggy Mace Johnson (former NV Democratic Party head) said that Commissioner Miller told her that he would remain until legislature closes (June 1, 2009)… That’s all I know about Skolnik leaving. Surely McDaniels will go soon, too, because of the ACLU lawsuit in which he’s personally sued for the Patrick Cavanaugh death. (See that on http://www.nvpv.us, too.)

There was a beating involving two inmates and two officers the night before the meeting (13 April 2009) at High Desert State Prison outside of Las Vegas.
A blurb on with few details on Channel 3, Las Vegas. If you get that story, let me know! It’s not on their site, but I confirmed it with Joyce Kolnik at the station…
I showed photographs of past NDOC brutality to the commissioners. Perfect timing to indicate the ongoing pattern because NV prisons are not accredited to professional standards of operations by the American Correctional Association! That I asked for at legislature more than a decade ago.

[death row inmate at Ely State Prison, beaten]

Let’s keep our fingers crossed for victory that will push Skolnik and McDaniels out! Let positive change begin with accreditation to standards!

MY PRESENTATION 14 April 2009 NV Prison Board of Commissioners:

TO: Nevada Prison Commissioners:

Attorney General Masto
Secretary of State Miller
Governor Gibbons

Mercedes Maharis MA MS MA, Hereford, AZ === For the Record.
Lifetime Member CURE, Washington, DC
Past Director Nevada CURE
Co-founder Spartacus Project
Co-Author Spartacus Project Report

DATE: 14 April 2009

Good Afternoon,

We have become a nation of prisons, but how are we going to take care of our prisoners? We cannot.

What is the true cost of continued Nevada prisoner warehousing?

It cannot be calculated.

Can a Nevada prison sentence become a death sentence?

Yes, it can, and in many cases, it has.

In the summer of 1971, the classic psychological Stanford Prison Experiment asked important questions.

What happens when we put good people in an evil place?

And, does humanity win over evil, or does evil triumph?

The planned two-week investigation into the psychology of prison life had to be ended prematurely after only six days because of what the situation was doing to the college students who participated.

Guards became sadistic. Prisoners became withdrawn, depressed and showed signs of extreme stress and began behaving in pathological ways.

Here are four examples of sadistic, excessive force inside Nevada prisons that you may not have seen… worse by far than Abu Ghraib.

1. Defenseless, beaten, still in prison, now with hepatitis C, suspecting reused needles in the medical department, since he was locked in a single cell for nearly two decades;

2. Defenseless, but shot in the back, unable to get prison medical employees to remove the buckshot causing severe migraine headaches. He currently has an open warrant in Florida. Would we be functional after such treatment?

3. A victim. His only choice to relieve excruciating pain was dental extraction in a Nevada prison, but, he was expected to reenter society with no front teeth and get a job. His fate? Unknown.

4. Unarmed, but clubbed mercilessly, out now, his fate also unknown.

On the other side of the equation, there is the issue of the older prisoners devouring the younger ones through domination by fear and sexual assault.

Of the 50 or more outsiders who saw the Stanford prison, only one participant, a PhD brought in to do interviews, ever questioned its morality. The link of this ignored social research is on Nevada Prisoner Voice for your review.

Yet, Nevada prisons continue, defying logic and common sense.

The system is broken, as Asm. Segerblom stated April 2, 2009, at the Nevada corrections committee meeting.

UNLV criminologist, author Randall G. Shelden has thrown in the towel. He wrote last week that he has come to believe that change will never come from inside the Nevada prison system.

December 5, 2000, I appeared before the Nevada Prison Commission to address lack of prisoner medical treatment, excessive use of force and late parole release. But, these issues continue today with no relief in sight.

After reviewing thousands of Nevada prisoner letters and legal documents over the years, we think that the current administration policy and operations are preventing the positive changes that can alter prisoners’ lives, officers’ lives, the family’s lives of both and community progress.

This is why new leadership today in the director’s office and at Ely State Prison immediately. Tomorrow may be too late. Buildings instead of drug programs: ineffective and unacceptable.

The enclosed April 13, 2009 New York Times editorial states, “The most effective programs provide inmates with high-quality treatment in prison and continue treatment when prisoners return to their communities.

Such programs have been shown to reduce both drug use and recidivism. But, good programs are rare, according to a report earlier this year in The Journal of the American Medical Association.”

We ask you to provide critical drug treatment and education to every Nevada prisoner who needs it for the benefit of all. If you will not, send prisoners home under house arrest to get treatment and education.

226 NV prisoners died Jan 1, 2000 to June 4, 2007. Up to date death information? We can’t get it. NDOC does not make it a priority. Mr. Reed, NDOC statistician, wrote me January 22, 2009, “As for the death statistics, I don’t have a projected date. We are very busy with other projects.” Not recording or revealing current prisoner deaths in prisons is unacceptable morally and reveals insensitivity to human life. Five more deaths have occurred at Ely alone since June 4, 2007. See Nevada Prisoner Voice (www.nvpv.us) for death information.

There were 545 Nevada prisoner lawsuits in federal courts 19 Feb 2009. The bulk of the work for the federal court in Reno is from NV prison inmates at Ely State Prison.

These 20 positive changes will avoid future litigation and create a safer, productive environment for the benefit of all:

* Humane Nevada Prison Conditions
* Effective Medical, Dental and Mental Health Care in Nevada prisons
* Immediate Food, Clothing, Shelter and Exercise Relief

The recent reported food and milk reduction… two packets of dried milk down to one at Ely, for example, is unacceptable. Withholding food is inhumane. We also brought this up to the Governor’s Committee on Corrections about a decade ago, but, still, there is no relief.

Accreditation to Professional Standards, that we also requested at legislature a decade ago. No standards for facilities is disastrous for prisoners and staff.

* National Commission on Correctional Healthcare (NCCHC) Accreditation
* American Correctional Association Accreditation

Concerning prisoner jobs:

* Expansion of Nevada Prison Industries and Agriculture
* Termination of Discriminatory Practices in the Nevada Prison Industries’ Classification Process
* Minimum Wages for Prison Workers

Concerning confinement:

* Closure of All Nevada Prison Control Units
* Termination of Perpetual Lockdown status for Ely State Prison, Ely, Nevada, with no due process re classification

NOTE: Administrative Segregation is solitary confinement, and highly destructive to the human psyche per expert psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Grassian’s 59 page report: http://law.wustl.edu/Journal/22/p325Grassian.pdf This report is also linked on the Nevada Prisoner Voice website.

* Removal of the civil justice system for Ely State Prison from White Pine County to Clark County, Nevada
* Termination of Mixed Classifications Policy and Practice to stop future Sexual Assault and Rape
* Access to Nevada Department of Corrections’ Official Reports and Statistics
* Termination of Nevada Prison Censorship, including mail, and Retaliation for Political Activism
* Reinstatement of Hardback Books, Typewriters, and Regular Pens for Fair Access to Education and Communications
* Introduction of personal netbooks as personal learning tools and to enable computer literacy
* Termination of mailroom personnel interference with US mail
* The Appointment of Volunteer Ombudsmen for Each Nevada Prison Facility
* A Prison Monitor Corps of Retired Educators and Business Professionals whose duties include audit and oversight of the prison budget, time keeping, the grievance system.

And lastly,

* Termination of prisoner family money confiscation without due process.

After reviewing Nevada Prison Commission minutes 1996 to the present day, we can find no record of Nevada commission members Board of Prison Commissioner ever discussing or carrying out this duty that NRS 209.382 mandates:

The board shall take appropriate action to remedy any deficiencies that the State Health Officer reports after examination of medical, dental services, diet of offenders, sanitation and safety in institutions and facilities. NRS 209.382.

You must also reinstate the semi-annual health inspections, all but discontinued though they are still mandated by law.

Otherwise, you will have failed to fulfill your jobs to protect the health and welfare of Nevada prisoner, wards of the State of Nevada.

If you will not do this, then you must send prisoners home today under house arrest and let their families find the health care that so many desperately need.

Prisoners are people, human beings with gifts and talents that can be uncovered with proper guidance under your wise supervision.

No==to preventable suffering and deaths. No==to prison officials’ medical malpractice. No==to homicidal neglect. Yes==to immediate positive change!

In closing, Commissioners, you have the power to see that Nevada prison officials and employees do no harm and that our prisoners return to society better than when they entered prison.

It is possible that the three of you could win the Nobel Peace Prize if you decide to empower our Nevada prisoners to succeed.

Thank you,

Mercedes Maharis MA MS MA

ENCL: Nevada Prisoner Death List 1905 to June 4, 2007 (3 pgs.)
New York Times Article 13 April 2009 ADDICTION BEHIND BARS (1pg.)
Fix the Prisons? By Randall G. Shelden (2pgs.)
Four Use of Excessive Force Photos (4)

POINT BOARDS: (1) each: Stop Inhumane Prisoner Deaths!; Stop Prison Medical Malpractice!; Adequate Prisoner Food! Clothing!; Fire Skolnik and McDaniels!; Stop Prison Kangaroo Courts! Prisoner Education and Rehabilitation!; Prison Board: Do a Better Job!; Where’s the Water? @ H.D.S.P Indian Springs