From the Bowels of Nevada – Til Now

Article submitted by John Neff, Ely State Prison



In a place once considered rehabilitative and efficient in recognizing that the most humane way is usually the hands-off approach where the adage, “Don’t fix what is not broken” can be said, a lot has changed and corroded over the years. There was a time when this place was a relatively quiet little known crease in the system with only the mundane murmurs of prison life. Nothing really unusual; just the atmosphere of incarceration. It was a state of business that ran itself where society knew nothing and prisoners didn’t have to seek redress outside the walls. When prisoners could settle grievances, they did not have to lean on a crooked, over-taxed system. Discipline then was more fair and with better justification. A case built on resistance rarely had a reason to be born and once quelled, the discontent would fade with a resolution. There was a place for everyone once and a balance in the harsh realities of what incarceration achieved.


Hope had been a companion when society’s worst always had an opportunity to live peacefully and even when life was bad, it was at least manageable. Tomorrow brought a new day with short memories from the nightmare of yesterday. Survival was easy or as hard as one wished to make it. It roamed at an acceptable pace catering to both captors and captives as their roles dictated. The lines were clean and rarely blurred. And yet, an unprecedented storm moved steadily and quickly from the horizon to reward the times even though human rights were still supposed to be a stout army. It wasn’t and so was summarily trampled without remorse as the new breed of prison “ideas” with its pioneers of punishment cast their webs to “crack down”. That is what happened and torturous, malicious shadows darkened what prison is…To appease a world that does not understand.


Slowly, men were broken as prison collapsed on them completely to suffocate them under the weight of authority and the light that often provided a glimpse of opportunity was doused with oppression. The cycle continues now to sop the will to be rehabilitated or to change “patterns” long learned.



Prisoners are trapped in their mistakes where “no tolerance” means lockdown all the time without a system to reward good behavior or provide any incentive to try. Nevada has made people want to fight them however they can but there are no resolutions anymore.



No one cares as the system doles out more punishment or cuts more from the budget to bury prisoners in infamy. In the end, no one has learned any lessons or saved a dime and the anger festers into hatred that often can only be given relief through violence.



It is a shame what men are forced to become because of their environment; what they must do to survive the multitude of situations in a place that is always out to get them.



Prisoners are trained to be animals with all the gimmicks of their confinement and often treated with the cruelty of being rabid instead of with a bit of civility so it cannot be a surprise to find that a lot of prisoners embrace the savage sides of their nature to become animals when humanity has abandoned them. It is not fair that a system now breeds hatred instead of a positive existence. It forces men to become disgusted or fed-up with enduring everything when the ugliest realities keep getting shoved down their throats.



The thought of making people better or giving them a reason to smile is beyond this new warehouse of horrors.



The times of preparing or learning to be a part of society and being a good person outside of prison are gone. It has reneged on its promise of justice. It’s all about money now and prison has thrown away the tools to rehabilitation and replaced them with thoughts of retribution and anger without an outlet.



Everything has been ripped away so prisoners are left with themselves to make do; it is mostly bad then because even complacency can’t solve the problems or extinguish the seeds of hatred left to mature. It becomes a life-long grudge against all authority and fellow man.



It is a sad life now that society has allowed the system to subject human beings to.


Eyes should focus on Ely, Nevada where the endless desert swallows the souls of men every day and the system shrouds its prison from the minds of society. Here is a hell there to be seen, though. It is a miserable, desolate place, devoid of any compassion with only thoughts of punishment through any forum – food, personal, safety, comforts, human rights, lockdown, sanity and any other way it can think of to make imprisonment harder than it needs to be.



Enemies are constantly pitted against enemies as animosity is the atmosphere this prison likes to create so that a maelstrom is always on the verge of erupting here. It is this environment’s fault that men cannot find peace anymore and it is unforgiving about the price it exacts. Its culpability is often excused by being in the middle of nowhere; out of sight and out of mind…and yet, here, the lives of men always stand perched at the edge of an abyss.



There is a story here to be told that began on the day of January 31st, 2010 that should be a glaring blemish to the face of Ely State Prison and has only been partially told and discredited by the accounts of the system, but it happened.



One this day, even under lockdown circumstances, men banded together to fight the oppression and expose it for what it is. These men bled for conditions imposed on them; for the wrongs slapping them in the face daily and for the right to be treated humanely. The end result: Nothing changed, two officers were fired of the dozen or so that were involved and any investigation into the wrongs at Ely were stymied as it swept its actions under a rug.



Only prisoners, physically injured, are left to tell of that day as it truly happened.



A ranked officer on probationary employment and his entourage had the swagger of uncaring, modern day gunslingers without a thought of consequences or that laws actually governed them. They dared anyone to challenge their authority over and over. It had actually been an action begun way before the day in question so this wasn’t the first time. Yet no investigation took place until fourteen prisoners decided it was time to make a stand. They had just witnessed another inmate beaten bloody during a cell extraction where no resistance was offered and his blood smeared in a swath across the plexiglass window of the sally-port. At that moment, a line was crossed and a cause had been born without a face.



No other way existed for prisoners to keep a measure of dignity except force the actions of the free-roaming cavaliers of injustice to target them. It was past time; a day of reckoning was set.



In a twist of fate, after just eight brutal, bloody extractions that included a stabbed officer and a verbal threat suggesting that blood would flow all night, the stamina of prison staff was expelled. They wanted no more problems and decided to use chemical agents to finish their extractions. Opposition had changed their mind, It should be known that no emergency situation actually existed to require physical extractions when inmates were locked securely in their cells.



The arrogance of Ely State Prison forced the actions of January 31st, 2010. At the end, eight prisoners bloodied; some hospitalized. Many were left in bare cells without necessities and bleeding from their wounds while little or no medical attention was offered. No true resolution was received and the actions of Ely State Prison have not ceased while prisoners wear the scars of resistence.



Nothing has changed here; no quarter was given or spared. The days become a grind and a test against the will to stay strong or remain sane. The courts and system in Nevada are taxed beyond capabilities so they refuse to do more than sit on technicalities and talk nice to the public. Even now, their lies stink of corruption.



Prison is a game in Nevada that is ignored and no one cares to look beyond the dilapidated veneers of control. It is oppression. A torturous cycle that will return to destroy another prisoner and leave acceptable excuses in its wake. It must STOP!



Voices can be heard and actions can be taken but it starts outside these walls with any who care enough to see an upside down system set right again through reform. One day a prisoner’s life may depend on a helping hand that may not be there leaving blood on another’s hands, so reach out…



Contact the Powers That Be, contact the NDOC and try to affect change. Don’t let them continue to wiggle off of the hook…



Feel free to write to:

John Neff # 54213

P.O. Box 1989

Ely, NV 89301

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