Human Rights Coalition PA Prison Report

Emailed to Prisonwatch on June 14th 2011:
In this edition: Sexual harassment and medical neglect of women at SCI Muncy, abuse continues in the solitary units at SCI Cresson, jailhouse lawyer Andre Jacobs seeks a court injunction against retaliation by prison staff, and more..
The News from Inside

Sexual harassment and medical neglect at women’s state prison:

Two recent reports from women incarcerated at SCI Muncy women’s prison describe how on certain units, male prison guards are permitted to come into the bathrooms while the women are using the toilet or showering, and that shower curtains are not tall enough to maintain privacy. The women describe these policies as inappropriate and harmful to their feelings of safety and privacy.One woman reported that male guards have been fired for sexual harassment and escorted off the grounds of the institution, but that policies claim that institutional security trump the needs of individual safety and privacy.

An additional report from an anonymous prisoner describes another woman, Josette Wakely, being brutally beaten by her cellmate on March 3. Surrounding prisoners hit their alert buttons, informing prison guards McElroy and Lorico that Wakely was being beaten and raped. The officers responded by threatening to write up anyone who disturbed them again. It was only after the attacker rang her alert button to inform the officers of what she had done that they attended to the injured woman.Josette Wakely was life-flighted out of the institution and sustained scars and bruises.

Also at Muncy, an anonymous prisoner reported the wrongful death of Tonya Green on April 20, due to medical neglect. The reports that “Green had a history of medical issues and was put in [solitary confinement] after she could not get up from the sidewalk, after they allowed her to stay there for half an hour. They knew this woman was in pain. After she cried out while in [solitary] no one attended her. Later that night she died.” A memorial service was held for Tonya Green at the SCI Muncy chapel.

Prisoner assaulted by guards after protesting illegal search of another man’s cell:

Davon Hayes reports from the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at SCI Dallas that after protesting the April 4 search of a nearby prisoner’s cell without the prisoner present, a team of guards then searched his own cell, tampered with his property, and assaulted him while he was handcuffed, leaving him with a fractured left orbital bone.

Hayes reports that after witnessing a search team enter the nearby K-A-35 cell without the occupant present, he spoke up against the search, citing DOC policy ADM 203 which requires that prisoners be physically present during searches of their cells. His words infuriated Sergeant Donald Buck, who immediately called for a team of guards to seach Hayes’ cell. During the search, he was handcuffed behind his back and to his cell window while officers Santero, Fitzgerald, Amos, Headman, and Whiteman threw his legal property in the air, threw his Islamic materials on the floor, and removed his books from the cell. The team then uncuffed him from the window, forced him to the floor, and proceeded to beat him about the face, in the process fracturing his left orbital bone. During the assault, guards repeatedly pressured him to “sign off on the paperwork” and at least one guard yanked and pulled on the tether attached to his handcuffs in an attempt to make it appear that Hayes was resisting the assault.

Hayes has filed a private criminal complaint about the incident. He remains in solitary confinement in the SCI Dallas RHU.

Jailhouse lawyer seeks court injunction as prison continues retaliation:

State prisoner Andre Jacobs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in the U.S. district court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in early June seeking a court order to obtain immediate access to his legal property and compel prison authorities to establish a plan for returning him to general population after a decade of solitary confinement. The motion was filed with Judge Kane, who has been assigned to handle Jacobs lawsuit against more than 100 prison officials and employees, law enforcement officers, and mental and medical care providers for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

The civil rights suit deals with two years of retaliation that Jacobs has suffered since winning a $185,000 award in a lawsuit against prison staff. Since that victory in November of 2008 he has been subject to assaults, racist harassment, starvation, deprived of all his property on multiple occasions, been issued dozens of fabricated misconducts, had false criminal charges pressed against him, and been separated from most of his legal property for the past 6 months.

The injunction was filed as reports from SCI Rockview indicate an escalation in the threats and retaliation against Mr. Jacobs. According to one declaration, Lt. Andrews refused to permit Jacobs to access his property and made obscene comments and gestures toward him. Another declaration states that Lt. Nixon was reading confidential medical and legal property of Mr. Jacobs, and that she told him to “destroy as much of this shit as possible. Just ask around, I’ll write you up and bury you.” She then seized addresses, pictures, and legal notes of Mr. Jacobs without issuing a confiscation slip.

Lt. Nixon also deprived Jacobs of a shower and a razor.

Superintendent Lamas has also instituted a new policy of restricting solitary confinement prisoners to a maximum of two envelopes per week from commissary, reportedly stating that “Inmates are sending way too many complaints to HRC, the courts and Central Office for grievance appeals. This limits that.”

Abuse continues at SCI Cresson:

Chris Balmer, a 23-year-old state prisoner who has spent the last five years in solitary confinement, is being held in a hard cell without property, basic hygiene products, and running water, and has been placed on food loaf. Balmer is one of several prisoners in the Restricted Housing Unit and Secure Special Needs Unit at SCI Cresson who are being warehoused in solitary confinement and deprived of mental health treatment. The security captain Francis Pirozzola has reportedly been conspiring with guards to target prisoners thought to have knowledge of the abuse and harassment of the late John McClellan prior to his committing suicide. Damont Hagan, a jailhouse lawyer and human rights defender, was transferred from the prison immediately after the suicide. Several other prisoners are rumored to be scheduled for transfer as well, while those who remain report ongoing acts of intimidation, including death threats and starvation.

Philly area: Wednesdays are Write On! Prison Letter Writing Night at the LAVA space at 4134 Lancaster, 6-9 pm. Come help us stay connected with the many prisoners who write to us with news from inside, learn to document crimes committed by prison staff, and help bring an end to the abuse and torture of our brothers and sisters behind bars.

If you’d like to know more about the Human Rights Coalition or would like to get involved, come to Write On!, to our monthly general meetings (second Monday of each month, 6pm), or call us at 215-921-3491, email, or visit our website at

Pittsburgh area: Write On! – letter writing to prisoners and HRC work night every Wednesday at 5129 Penn Avenue from 7 -10pm. To get involved with HRC/Fed Up! in Pittsburgh,email or call 412-654-9070.

You’ve been listening to the Human Rights Coalition’s PA Prison Report. HRC is a group of current and former prisoners, family members, and supporters, whose ultimate goal is to abolish prisons.

Keep up the fight!