ACLU Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Care At Women’s Prison To Proceed

ACLU Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Care At Women’s Prison To Proceed
Federal Judge Rejects State Request To Dismiss Class Action Lawsuit

FOR IMMEDIATE ERELEASE
November 25, 2009

CONTACT:
Will Matthews, ACLU National, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Chris Ahmuty, ACLU of Wisconsin, (414) 272-4032, ext.13; cahmuty@aclu-wi.org

MILWAUKEE – A federal judge has denied a request by Wisconsin state officials to dismiss a class action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Wisconsin and the law firm of Jenner & Block charging that grossly deficient health care and mental health treatment jeopardizes the lives of women prisoners at a state prison.

In a sternly-worded ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph T. Randa said there “is a great deal of evidence demonstrating that there are systemic and gross deficiencies in staffing, facilities and procedures” at the Taycheedah Correctional Institution (TCI), Wisconsin’s largest women’s prison, and that the evidence suggests that state prison officials “are and have been subjectively aware of the risks that are posed by the administration of medical and mental health care at
TCI.” Judge Randa described the state’s attempt to have the case dismissed as “curious” given that the state’s own expert witness described health care at TCI as a system “designed to let people ‘fall through the cracks.’”

“I am pleased that the court is allowing our litigation to proceed and look forward to bringing the case to trial,” said Gabriel Eber, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “Without court-ordered changes, women at TCI will continue to suffer needlessly in a system that still fails to comply with the requirements of the Constitution.”

In a first-of-its-kind class action lawsuit filed in 2006 on behalf of women prisoners in Wisconsin, the ACLU charges that the state prison system puts the lives of women prisoners at risk through grossly deficient health care, provides far inferior mental health treatment as compared to men and fails to provide reasonable accommodations to allow prisoners with disabilities to access basic prison services. Judge Randa’s decision allows all three claims to proceed to trial.

The lawsuit asks the court to order reforms to the system so that constitutionally adequate care is made available. In April 2009, Judge Randa entered a preliminary injunction ordering that significant changes be made immediately to TCI’s dangerous system of administering medications to prisoners.

The ACLU’s lawsuit charges that the prison’s health system violates the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit also charges the health system violates the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection, because the women receive mental health care far inferior to what male prisoners receive. The ACLU says in the lawsuit that these lapses in mental health care occur against the backdrop of a prison system that has a suicide rate of twice the national average.

“Judge Randa’s decision recognizes a ‘mountain of evidence’ showing the continued failure of state officials to fix a system that has been in crisis for years,” said Larry Dupuis, Legal Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “It is far past time that state officials be held accountable.”

The lawsuit names as defendants a number of senior officials in the state corrections department as well as Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.

A copy of Judge Randa’s ruling is available online at: www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/flynn-et-al-vdoyle-
et-al-decision-and-order

A copy of the ACLU complaint is available online at: www.acluwi.
org/wisconsin/police_prisons/TCI%20Complaint%20–%20for%20filing.pdf

News from Utah State Prison, Draper 2009

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Utah State Prison, Draper 2009
I wish strength to all comrades worldwide. Last year on April 16th I caused a code red
count by not racking in and having the SWAT Team deployed. For a couple hours I was
considered AWOL from this Utah plantation. I sat in protest of the conditions and unjust
treatment we were subject to last spring.
Since then I’ve been housed here in supermax, and along with the escape attempt they
charged me with last year, there’ve been several inciting riots and disorderly conducts.
My comrades in these actions have since been moved, if that’s the word. One terminated
or paroled and I wish him luck on the streets. The other, after continual abuses, resorted
to hanging himself last month. And I want to just say to Spider and all those that choose
that route, you’re not forgotten and may you finally rest. I’m exposing as much as I can
about these sadistic guards and have been studying law to better arm myself and
eventually bring a rock solid case against the USP.
One pig was fired because of me documenting his exploits, but he has since been
rehired, though it seems, and I hope, it’s only temporary. The pig got a lawyer and he’s
suing the DOC for firing him. Sgt. Feikert doesn’t realize that in a way he’s now fighting
on our side, the oppressed side. His lawsuit will weaken his and the prison industrial
complex’s capital. No matter who eventually wins, it’s still a pig-on-pig fight and I can
think of no better way at their throats than that.
By refusing OMR, I and others, especially almost all of section 3, have pretty much shut
down most all moves and the pigs have had to come up with new policies and rules to
move us. One comrade in section 3 has been back here over 15 years, but his story is
he’s been kept here because the pigs fear his mind and political actions. The section 3
strike has, I assume, been his resistance and I want to wish strength to him and all those
who are down.
Amerikan prisons are growing and no way a body looks at that fact is positive. Yet as a
presence, us comrades are growing also. Both in numbers and knowledge, strength, and
solidarity. We must all not become complacent but train our bodies and minds to be ready for action when the call to arms sounds. It’s not ‘if,’ it’s ‘when.’
(Rage Against the Machine) Word is born, Fight the war, fuck the norm, Now I got no
patience, So sick of complacence, With the D – E – F – I – A – N – C- E, Mind of a
revolutionary, So clear the lane, The finger to the land of the chains, What? The land of
the free? Whoever told you that is your enemy, Now something must be done, About
vengeance, a badge and a gun, Now action must be taken, We don’t need the key, We’ll
break in.
I feel the time is nearing for revolution as the bloodthirsty U.S. overextends militarily
overseas, and opportunities and weaknesses are becoming exposed here at home. Every
small strike or rebellion we cause matters. We must remember that, and I want to say
RIGHT ON to P.A.N. and all those that uphold the struggle by letting our voices be
heard. We, as captives, have really no choice but to struggle. Either we struggle as a
whole or lay down. But these ABC Networks and others have my, and I think I speak
for us all, appreciation and respect, for all the tiresome, time consuming work and
support you all provide for us convicts.
In Unity! Up the Struggle!
Brandon Green #35439,
UI 208
Utah State Prison P.O. Box 250,
Draper, Utah 84020

Letter to the Editor about Members of the Pardons Board

From the Sparks Tribune (but not yet published online…) (click to see larger version).

Letter to the Editor, by Tonja Brown. December 27, 2009.

Dear Editor,
I’m writing this letter in an effort to bring to light the injustice that is being perpetrated by our public officials, four of whom are now up for re-election: Justices James Hardesty and Ron Parraguirre, Attorney General Masto and our governor, Jim Gibbons.

In May, Judge Brent Adams ordered Washoe County District Attorney, Dick Gammick to turn over the entire file in Mr. Nolan Klein’s case. On June 10, newly discovered evidence was found. On June 24, I appeared before the Nevada Pardons Board to bring it to their attention the acts within in the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office.

I presented to the Pardons Board dozens of documents, including the hand-written notes, that a former assistant district attorney made on our motion for discovery that he was not going to turn over any of the materiality or exculpatory evidence despite a 1988 court order to do so. The Pardons Board knew that this attorney violated Brady v. Maryland by withholding all of the materiality and exculpatory evidence that showed another person was responsible for the crime in which my innocent brother, Nolan Klein, was convicted of 21 years ago.

On Nov. 19, the Pardons Board knew that the assistant district attorney had defied a court order to turn over all of the evidence in the case. They also knew that the newly discovered evidence that was found in the file that would not only clear Mr. Klein of the crime but newly discovered evidence was found that supports Mr. Klein’s claims in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that our AG Masto is trying to get dismissed because of Mr. Klein’s recent death.

One would think that they would have placed Mr. Klein on the November’s Agenda for an exoneration, but, no they would rather cover up the acts of the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office for the last 21 years. How many more innocent people will die in prison because they want to condone the bad acts of officials under the color of law? Could your loved one be next? We need transparency in government not more cover-ups. We, the voters, need to be heard. We must send a message that we are not going to condone their actions and vote them out of office. For those of you who were considering running for office, here is your opportunity to make a difference.
Tonja Brown
Carson City

Come to the next Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners

Next Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners: Januari 12, 2010.

Write and send in your comments for the record. Maybe you have questions? Grievances? Unanswered questions? Complaints? Suggestions? This is your chance to submit the comments and if you are in the area, to read them out to the Board.

It may be that you feel not heard by the Board, but remember, if we do not tell them, they can always say the “did not know.” Now, they can not deny that there are abuses and extremely bad conditions in the prisons of Nevada. Because we told the Board about them. Witnesses from inside prisons, and family members, friends of prisoners, professionals like nurses testified of the bad state of the prisons in Nevada.

Should we care? Of course! Most prisoners will be free one day, living in the community again. Do we care about Human Rights? Well prisoners are humans too, even if you or I want to place all our anger, frustration on them. Human rights are not only for ´good´ people….

Investing in proper rehabilitation of prisoners is vital for the rest of the state and country. It costs more to incarcerate a person than to rehabilitate someone, because if it goes well, they will never return to prison. I am not sure whether the authorities want emptier prisons though….

Even better investment would be to start with good education and jobs. Not jobs in the guard/security incarceration industry I mean (although there is a shortage of personnel, leading to frustrations and stress at the workplace, where people are being incarcerated. Maybe also less long sentences would be a solution to create less stressful situations?), but jobs with dignity and respect. Rehabilitating prisoners, and preventing crime from happening by providing better education and help for families with children, and creating less criminal offenses would be a very important step.

From Arizona Prison Watch: Protest on 12-18 at AZ DOC


This comes from our Allies at Arizona Prison Watch, who do a good job in creating consciousness in the Prison Industrial Complex. They also supply a creative and clear voice to protest the killing of AZ inmate Marcia Powell in an outdoor cage, on May 20th, 2009.

Protest on 12-18 at AZ DOC by SWOP and others. Open Letter from the Sex Workers Outreach Project and allies to Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona DOC

When: Friday December 18th, 2009 NOON

Where: AZ Department of Corrections
1601 West Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Sex Workers and allies are coming together in front of the AZ Department of Corrections on December 18th, as part of International Day To End Violence Against Sex Workers, an annual event to call attention to violence committed against sex workers all over the globe. Marcia Powell was a prisoner of the State of Arizona who collapsed and died from heatstroke last May after being locked in an outdoor cage and ignored for four hours in 107 degree heat.

What: Protest Rally: Marcia Powell’s death, AZ Department of Corrections.

You are invited to join us in Tucson, Arizona on December 17, 2009 (performance art/public installation and a candelight vigil) and in Phoenix, Arizona on December 18, 2009 (protest rally on the steps of the Arizona Department of Corrections).

Bring red umbrellas, to stand in solidarity! Signs are welcome.

Sex Worker Rights are Human Rights!

——————–

Open Letter from the Sex Workers Outreach Project and allies to Charles L. Ryan, Director of the Arizona Department of Corrections. Posted and delivered December 11, 2009.
­
December 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. This event was created by Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP-USA), a national social justice network dedicated to the fundamental human rights of sex workers, focusing on ending violence and stigma through education and advocacy.
In 2009, sex workers from around the globe met gruesome deaths and endured unspeakable violence. Some died at the hands of a solitary perpetrator; others were victims of serial “prostitute killers.” While some of these horrific stories received international media attention (Boston, Grand Rapids, Albuquerque, Tijuana, Hong Kong, Moscow, Great Britain, Cape Town, New Zealand), other cases received little more than a perfunctory investigation. Many cases remain unsolved, sometimes forever.

Today we are here for Marcia Powell, who was incarcerated for solicitation of oral sex and sentenced to over two years in prison – despite being found so mentally impaired at the time of sentencing that she had just been appointed a legal guardian. On May 19, 2009, after informing prison staff that she was suicidal, Marcia was placed in an uncovered outdoor cage at Arizona’s Perryville prison for women, where she would presumably be “observed” until she was transferred to a more appropriate location. Reportedly, that’s what they did with women who caused problems there: they put them in a cage and “waited them out”. The same cages were used for “recreation” and as waiting rooms for those needing medical attention: the prisons filled up so cages were erected in the yards to add more space. Putting someone in there was routine; women were left in there all the time beyond policy, so no one thought much about Marcia complaining – except the other prisoners. Four hours later – after her pleas for water were ignored or mocked by guard after guard – she was found, collapsed, in 107-degree heat, and died on May 20th in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections.

Marcia was the victim of dual forms of injustice, as a sex worker and as a prisoner. Sex Workers Outreach Project and other organizations are fundamentally opposed to criminalization of sex work. The prohibition of this work results in selective prosecution that puts some of the most vulnerable in our society at the mercy of a system that robs them of their basic respect and dignity. For decades efforts to curb sex work have not only failed to reduce incidences of prostitution, but they have corrupted our justice system resulting in selective enforcement, racial profiling and inhumane treatment of those who don’t have the financial resources to fight back. Violence against sex workers is epidemic and rarely taken seriously. The criminalization of prostitution legitimizes this abuse so that sex workers are the targets of violent crime with little recourse. Marcia was referred to – after her death – as a “biological serial killer” in an employee blog (The Lumley Vampire). That suggests that her degraded social status as a “criminalized” sex worker had a considerable effect on the way she was treated at the hands of ADC staff the day she was left to die. It also raises the question of her abuse being the result of bias against her for a disability she may have also had.

Women prisoners are also the victims of an unjust system, facing extreme medical neglect, sexual harassment and abuse. The women’s prison population in the United States has grown 800% in the past three decades, twice the rate of the male prison population. 2/3 of women in prison were incarcerated for non-violent offenses. (Institute on Women and Criminal Justice). As the death of Marcia Powell in the care of the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) shows, prison sentences can include the most extreme form of neglect and abuse.

We are here for Marcia and other prisoners, and sex workers, as we call for respect for human rights. As a result of an internal investigation, 16 people were disciplined. An investigation is currently underway to determine whether or not criminal charges should be filed in her death.

“It’s not enough to change a few people and policies. There is a culture embedded in the ADC that is pervasive throughout the prison system that reflects a disregard for the fundamental human rights of prisoners. There are exceptions to that, and the prisoners know who they are,” says Peggy Plews of Arizona Prison Watch.

No critical analysis of the institutional culture that contributed to this abuse has been made public, but that analysis is essential to ending state violence.

In response to the death of Marcia Powell while in the custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections, we expect the following:

1. The Arizona Department of Corrections has an influential role in shaping policy. We ask that leadership be provided by the ADC in exploring models of restorative justice and addressing strategies such as criminal code and sentencing reform, early release programs for low-risk prisoners, community support through harm reduction, and re-entry programs to stop the revolving door syndrome that traps so many people.

2. An analysis of violence against sex workers (both inside and outside the Arizona prison system) should be conducted and a plan should be developed for reducing violence against sex workers in Arizona.

– An analysis of violence against sex workers (including male and transgendered workers) should include victimization while in state custody, police brutality, and domestic and occupational violence.

– Efforts to reform the prisons must go deeper than investigations into individual responsibility for Marcia’s Powell’s death. An analysis of how the culture of the correctional system employees/officers contributes to violence against prisoners is crucial.

3. A community-organized process for oversight in the prisons should be recognized which includes the voices of prisoners and their families.

4. Grievance policies should be reviewed and strengthened.

5. Cages should never be used to hold prisoners or to address overcrowding, which is the current practice. Overcrowding must be addressed through reducing incarceration and recidivism rates.

6. Allocate sufficient resources to address the special needs of prisoners with psychiatric and physical disabilities, including education about complications of medications.

7. May 20th should be observed each year in memory of Marcia Powell and other prisoners who died in state custody. On that day ADC should prepare a report addressed to prisoners, families and community-based oversight groups on human rights violations that have occurred over the past year and actions ADC has taken in response. The report should also include the Department’s plan for the upcoming year to improve respect for human rights.

Sex workers around the United States are shocked to see this criminalization result in a death sentence for a prostitution crime. This is one of many cases in which we observe conditions that are abusive, degrading and dangerous ranging from rape and other violence, to extreme medical neglect. These conditions violate the human rights of all persons deprived of their liberty to be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and to be free from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) should be applied to all individuals.

In the wealthiest country in the world, where taxpayers spend billions on the prison system, it is horrific that this justice system has led to a death sentence for someone arrested for prostitution. It’s been over 60 years since the UN Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) has been adopted. The Arizona Department of Corrections has been woefully negligent, in following the human rights protocol, which Eleanor Roosevelt, along with so many others, have developed. In less than a decade we’ve almost doubled the amount spent on our prisons in Arizona, and the Arizona Department of Corrections fails even the most basic requirement, to keep prisoners safe.

We ask that the Arizona Department of Corrections look at the 30 articles in the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and review the treatment of individuals in the prison system in the light of these principles. Every ADC employee/correctional officer should have training in human and prisoners’ rights principles and practices. ADC should provide leadership that demonstrates a respect for human rights.

We look forward to the day when prisons are no longer used to address our most pressing social problems. As social justice activists we challenge the discrimination that leads to criminalization and incarcerations. We promote human rights for all, as well as specific law reform. Recently enacted by the Arizona legislature, felony charges should be rescinded for prostitutioni charges. Although the ADC does not have jurisdiction over many aspects of these injustices, ADC does have great deal of influence in many of these matters and ADC is also directly responsible for how prisoners are treated within this system. Sex Worker Outreach Project, in tandem with Arizona Prison Watch and Friends of Marcia Powell expects that the ADC establish real justice in the death of Marcia Powell.

Sincerely,

Tara Sawyer
Board Chair
Sex Workers Outreach Project

Peggy Plews
Arizona Prison Watch
Friends of Marcia Powell

Penelope Saunders
Best Practices Policy Project

Carol Leigh
BAYSWAN

The Jumpsuit Riot


This happened in 2007, it was published earlier this year in:

Prison Action News (Boston Anarchist Black Cross)

Nevada
Ely State Prison Dec 8, 2008

I am in a maximum security lock up in Ely, Nevada. The event I want to
write you about was a group event, but I would like to mostly write about
my personal action and not others’ involvement.

On March 15th, 2007, in the maximum lock up unit we (inmates) were
notified that we would have to now go by a new rule which was
implemented due to just a couple of inmates actions. The new rule was
that we would have to put on our orange jumpsuits before correctional
officers would open our food slots to serve us our meals, but that we
would have to take our jumpsuits off again before being placed in
handcuffs. This rule was implemented due to a few inmates
masturbating in front of female guards when they would look into cells.
Which most of us do not do or agree with being done, and I personally
would not ever do. The point of what I’m saying is they were trying to
punish us and have us acting like their puppets just for a few inmates’
actions.

On March 15th, 2007, I began to refuse my food trays. But, what I would
do is refuse to put on m jumpsuit so they would refuse to open my slot to
give me food. I would tell them I wasn’t refusing my meal but just
refusing to put on my jumpsuit. Then I would file an emergency
grievance for being denied food. I did this for the 3 meals on the 15th.
On March 16th, 2007 I continued this form of food strike. Also, on the
morning of the 16th I pushed a lot of paper out under the door and lit it
on fire, in turn lighting my door on fire. On March 16th at 6:30 pm
count I was sure to cover my window for count (and had my cell set up
so I could fight correctional officers if they came to do a cell extraction.)
A correctional officer opened my slot to look in for count, but could not
see me due to a sheet hanging across the cell. I happened to have a 4
inch piece of sharpened metal in my hand, at which time I rushed around
the sheet and tried to stab the correctional officer in the face, but he had
heard me a second earlier and jumped back as my hand came out of
the slot. The c/o ran to tell the senior, at which time I threw baby oil all
over the tier outside my door – so when the cell extradition team arrived
it would get on the bottom of their boots and I’d have a better chance at a
fight. And yes, I had a weapon, but they also came with eight officers,
chemical agents, tasers, taser shields – so you have to be cunning to
outwit them for a good fight. Well, the cell extraction team came and
with chemical agents (strong pressurized pepper spray) so I got to the
back of the cell up on the bunk, hunched low, with a wet towel over my
nose and mouth, and my shank in the other hand. So, they gave me
commands to cuff and I didn’t say anything so they sprayed an issue of
chemical agents. After ten minutes they opened my slot again and
commanded me to cuff up. I didn’t say anything, so they sprayed more
chemical agents into my cell. But they refused to come into my cell
because I had a weapon, and they didn’t want anything close to a fair
fight. So they posted a CO outside my door on a bucket so my weapon
can’t get out of the cell, and alert the other COs not to open my slot. All
night COs were coming on my intercom speaker talking shit to keep me
awake, and after 6:00 am on March 17th, they started hitting my door to
try to keep me awake. (March 17th 6:00 am I must say changed their
minds and took away and vanquished the new rule). So everybody got
breakfast except me and at this point I had not eaten for 2 1/2 days. But I
still refused to give up my weapon because I wanted a fight. At about
10:00 am the corrections response team was conducting cell searches on
every cell.

Well at this point I’d had it and took down the window covering and told
the c/o’s to come in, and they said they would not as long as I had a
weapon, so I gave them the weapon and told them to come in. They
requested me to take down the sheet covering half of my cell and
uncover and turn on the light. So I did all of this, and they still refused to
perform a cell extraction. The cowards didn’t have the heart to come in
on one unarmed man with any number of them and their gadgets. They
needed to search my cell, but all they would do is keep spraying me with
chemical agents and not come in. Well I figured our fight was won- due
to them taking the rule away and I personally made them show and show
all their cowardly ways in front of everyone. I stripped out, cuffed and
went to shower to wash chemical agents from my body. I wanted to
write about this because it involved many people to stand up on a
combined effort to let them know we wouldn’t stand for something.

And it was a rarity because they actually changed something we wanted
changed. I was just one of many in this fight.

Robert McGuire #83383
Ely State Prison
Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301

Investigation ordered into inmate death

From: Nevada Appeal:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Prison officials are investigating the death of an inmate at Northern Nevada Correctional Center over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Director of Corrections Howard Skolnik said inmate Jamie Kline’s death while he was in the prison Regional Medical Center is under investigation.

Skolnik said Kline habitually refused to take his psychotropic medicines which meant the medical staff had to make him take them.

“We had an individual who we have repeatedly had to give forced meds,” Skolnik said. “Apparently the last time we forced his meds, he died.”

He said the preliminary autopsy showed no bruising on the inmate’s body. He said a full autopsy including chemical testing will be conducted to determine the cause of death along with an investigation of the circumstances that led to his death.

Kline, 45, was serving a maximum 15 year sentence for a burglary and grand larceny conviction. He arrived at the prison in May 2007.

Note: what would an investigation done by the prison officials themselves be worth?