The New Forgotten Men and Women-Elderly Prisoners Appeal for Help!

Received via email from JusticeforMajorTillery.org on March 16, 2018:

In December 2017, Major Tillery, sixty-seven years old and imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole in Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Frackville made a proposal to Superintendent Kathy Brittain for remedial policies and to stop the disrespectful and abusive treatment of the seniors.

“On behalf of all the Elderly Members of the General Population” Major Tillery asked for “humanistic consideration for health reasons” to implement some commonsensical, little or no cost changes: housing unit adjustments for the elderly; modifying shower times; providing additional blankets and cold-weather clothing items like gloves and long-johns; virtual visitation with even older parents. He also suggested a pilot program that combined seniors mentoring younger prisoners while getting their help in escorting the elderly in the prison. This program would “bridge the gap between the elderly and youth, create meaningful interaction—now and in the future with family and friends—and educate about diversity of true ethnic cultural differences.”

Pennsylvania has the second highest percentage of elderly prisoners in the U.S., related to the fact that it is one of six states that have prison sentences of life without the possibility of parole. In 1980 there were 370 elderly people in PA’s state prisons, as of 2014 there were 8000, which was 16% of PA prisoners over the age of 55. As of January 1, 2018, the DOC reported 10,442 inmates over the age of 50. The consequences of lack of adequate health care for any and all prisoners is exacerbated when it comes to elderly prisoners; years of prison life, including the food and quality of the water. The leading causes of death in the state’s prisons are heart disease, cancer, and liver disease. Studies establish that the elderly prison population is at higher risk for self-harm, suicide and victimization by staff and other prisoners
On January 3, 2018, Major Tillery re-submitted his proposals to Sup. Brittain, the Office of Legal Counsel to the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Deputy Secty for the Eastern Region stating the denial of accommodations for elderly prisoners is a violation of the American Disabilities Act as applied to the Elderly. He said:

“It is cruel and unusual punishment for the elderly to be abused and mistreated by correctional staff, our primary caretakers…. Medical and elderly care is part of reasonable care, custody and control [by the DOC] under color of law.”

The prison response is a once-a-week activities program and to limit participation to the twenty-two prisoners at SCI Frackville who are over 65. This doesn’t even comply with the DOC recognition that in the prison system, 50 is considered elderly.

With the support of other elderly prisoners, Major Tillery on February 16, 2018 gave notice to the Office of Legal Counsel for the PA. Department of Corrections (DOC) and Sup. Brittain:

“I am required to try and solve the Elderly Prisoners’ Issues by law under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act before seeking class action Litigation. Supt. Brittain you know this is a real issue, and I realize changes take awhile. However, not being taken seriously for something this important I have no other choice, to save my life and others. I’ve been housed in the hardest control units in the U.S. I have issues from years of isolation, starvation and other abuses while at Marion [infamous federal lock-down prison], they fed me one meal a day, in the dark and now I’m old and still going through it.”

Major Tillery asks for “proper medical care opposed to dismissing our concerns and needs.” This complaint is for consideration of aging prisoners, eliminating lengthy periods of standing for count, or in line for medications and commissary or out in the cold between buildings or in the cell without long johns, gloves, sweaters, extra blankets. It is also a demand to stop staff bullying and harassment of elderly prisoners for memory loss, inability to hear announcements, or time needed to walk through the prison from the cell to the mess hall to the infirmary. The proposals repeated the need for a mentoring program with younger prisoners that would also provide assistance to seniors.

YOU CAN HELP:

TELL PRISON OFFICIALS:
Elderly Prisoners Need Respect and Additional Care
Implement Major Tillery’s Proposals, including an elderly housing unit and a mentoring program with younger prisoners; more medical attention; and appropriate clothing and additional blankets in cold weather

CALL:
SCI Frackville Superintendent Kathy Brittain 570 874-4516
Dep. Secretary, DOC Eastern Region Michael Wenerowicz 717 728 4122 or 4123

EMAIL: Ra-contactdoc@pa.gov

Excerpts of testimonials from Major Tillery, Terrence Poles and Clifford Smith below. Read these in full on Justice for Major Tillery

The New Forgotten Men and Women!
Major Tillery AM978, January 18, 2018

Now we have a group of “New Forgotten Man and Women,” the elderly held in Pennsylvania state prisons. Take myself– in 1983 at the age of 33 I entered the prison with a life sentence, without the chance of parole. At that time I was both mentally and physically strong. Even back then I noticed how older people were being treated; the lack of concern [for] programming for elderly assistance didn’t exist.

Although I was 33 then, it struck me as wrong and on several occasions I complained to the administration on behalf of the elderly and mentally ill prisoners. This bothered me to the point that I filed a civil lawsuit on these issues. [Tillery v. Owens, a federal a lawsuit that ended double-celling (4 in a cell) in PA prisons and required the Pa. Department of Corrections to provide additional mental and medical health care to prisoners.] …

The DOC has a humanitarian problem as it relates to how people treat other people.
Now I face the same fears. Not dying, but to die among people and medical staff who would treat one of the dogs up here with more care and compassion than me. I’m not exaggerating, it’s true. I have it a little better than most older prisoners here, because after 35 years I helped raise a lot of these young brothers, so they check on me daily. But what about the others, the older people who are not Major Tillery? They get pushed around, cheated for phone time, medical treatment just flat out dogged by both staff and other prisoners. I only get problems mostly from administration. So when the old people come to me, I try to bring their grievances with mine. And like I started— ‘Forgotten Men and Women in 1983’ and now ‘Forgotten in 2018’ … .

Aging in Prison
By Bro Tacuma/Terrence Poles BL5740

NEGLECT, CARELESSNESS and DISRESPECT, are the main aspects of aging in prison that the general public isn’t fully aware of. First and foremost my name is Terrence Poles. I’m 55 years old, and I’ve been serving a DBI sentence since 1989. (Death By Incarceration: AKA LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE.)

We’re NEGLECTED because the state doesn’t offer any meaningful or therapeutic programs for the elderly.

Because of their CARELESSNESS and callousness, they won’t even give/allow me to use an extra mattress (for back pain and arthritis).

The DISRESPECT is manifested in so many ways. We aren’t given thermals, vitamins, or nutrients and other things that will prolong our health and well-being. There isn’t even a housing unit for the elderly. Some older individuals have serious medical issues, which may cause them to have to get in the showers at certain times. Instead of having to wait until 3 pm standing for sometimes 15 minutes to 20 minutes just to get into the shower.

A Summary of Life, My Life as an Old Man…
By Clifford Smith AM8913 (AKA) Robert Amin Atkins

It’s 2018: I’ve been incarcerated for 36 years, watching my life, my hopes, dreams, and visions slip away. That’s my perception. It’s a reality that society, my correctional community see me, and all the elderly at SCI Frackville.

Is it unreasonable to request civil, fundamental, basic human rights for the elderly? Fair treatment programs that inspire growth? Awareness of how to transition to old age? It’s a difficult task, with deliberate indifference from staff, and other inmates who don’t understand that they will eventually grow old, and die in prison. Why can’t we die with respect and dignity?

I’m fighting for the right to be treated fairly as we grow older. I’m afraid I will have my job taken from me because I am an old man and continue to question, challenge our treatment.

When you speak truth to power there are consequences; but we won’t be silent. The simple things we do day to day are a challenge, like walking to the dining hall. I’m bumped, pushed just because I don’t move fast enough. If I don’t chew fast enough, I’m not allowed to finish my meal. I’ve outlined many examples of abuse and questions about the treatment of the elderly.

In struggle, Amin The (Old Man)

Write separately to:

Major Tillery AM9786
Clifford Smith AM8913
Terrence Poles BL5740

SCI Frackville
1111 Altamount Blvd.
Frackville, PA 17931

For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org
Call/Write:
Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009,
Kamilah29@yahoo.com

Rachel Wolkenstein, Esq. (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com

JusticeForMajorTillery.org

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The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign

This campaign should be expanded to every state!
This is from a leaflet of RAPP:

The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign

SUMMARY

The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign is an independent organizing and policy project that aims to establish a parole process in New York that is transparent, all inclusive, and fair, in which the state bases its parole decisions on legitimate public safety risk and individuals’demonstrated personal growth while in prison.

Led by Mujahid Farid, a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow who was incarcerated for 33 years in New York before his release in 2011, the RAPP Campaign focuses on the rapidly growing population of aging people in prison — many of whom are long-termer s convicted of serious crimes.

Many of these human beings have taken responsibility for their crimes, have transformed their lives and developed skills and abilities they lacked before incarceration, and could be released from prison with no threat to public safety. Yet many are denied release, often for political reasons, and needlessly remain imprisoned into old age.

Our campaign will seek fair and objective hearings for all individuals who come before the Parole Board. Significantly, our approach will not seek expanded release opportunities for certain classes of offenses by denying opportunities for others. In contrast, we will insist that decisions be made on a person’s individual merits and experiences inside.

This operating principle not only makes the RAPP Campaign unique, but also allows it to challenge a fundamental pillar of the mass incarceration crisis:
the reliance on a system of permanent punishment, a culture of retribution and revenge rather than rehabilitation and healing.

The RAPP Campaign is mobilizing currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, and other concerned community members in efforts designed to increase parole release rates for aging people in prison who pose no risk to public safety.

RAPP is also partnering with the Drop the Rock Coalition, which previously helped lead efforts to reform NY’s infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws, and is reaching out to other prison justice groups to join in carrying out this work. From this united base, we will work to:

(1) raise public awareness about the destructiveness of mass incarceration and the benefits to society in releasing aging people, including those convicted of violent crimes who do not pose a risk to public safety and
(2) promote the use of key mechanisms for releasing elderly people including parole decisions, compassionate release, and policy changes.

BACKGROUND

For 40 years the prison population in the United States has been increasing to where it has become an international embarrassment.

While this has been acknowledged by federal and state governments, legislators, policymakers, and prison administrators (who face rising administrative costs amidst serious budget crises), and where incremental steps reduced some prison populations, there remains a strong reluctance to utilize available downsizing options as they apply to certain categories of people confined.[note 1]

The prison population will not be substantially reduced unless such options are used.

This project will seek to address mass incarceration through the “back end” of the criminal justice system, promoting the release of low – risk groups — especially aging people in prison, who make up a rapidly growing portion of the prison population. A recent Human Rights Watch report shows that between 1995 and 2010, the number of state and federal prisoners aged 55 and over nearly quadrupled to 124,400, while the prison population as a whole grew by 42%.

The explanation for this can be found in sentencing policies adopted during the past 25 years (Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States, 2012), but also in the failure of correctional and parole systems to utilize existing release mechanisms. Current conditions don’t suggest improvement.

The ACLU’s report, “At America’s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly,” finds that by 2030 there will be more than 400,000 older people behind bars, a 4,400 percent increase from 1981 when only 8,853 state and federal prisoners were elderly.

New York State presents an even sharper example. Over the past 11 years, the New York State prison population has decreased by 21% — from 71,466 in 2000 to 56,315 in 2011.
At the same time the population of prisoners aged 50 and over increased by 64% — from 5,111 in 2000 to 8,392 in 2011 (Correctional Association statistical sheet, “Elderly Prisoners and Parole Reform”).

Prison administrators know that older people who have served long sentences frequently serve as role models, facilitate most prison rehabilitation programs, and provide leadership, having found meaning in life through service to others.

Moreover, the vast majority of released prisoners over 50 do not return to prison. Those who do return generally do so because of a technical parole violation (failure to report to a parole officer, missing work, or missing curfew).

New York State policymakers are realizing that there are alternatives to costly, unproductive incarceration when such violations occur (2007 Releases: Three Year Post Release Follow – up, NYSDOCCS).

Consistently, the return rate of long – termers convicted of murder (most commonly people of advanced age) is the lowest (6.6%) system -wide, with only 1.3% returning for a new commitment (id).

Despite low recidivism rates, ample evidence of personal transformation, and the significant cost savings that could be realized, political considerations too often prevent administrators from using available release mechanisms.

The RAPP Campaign will utilize the voices of the key population of formerly incarcerated women and men and currently incarcerated elderly to show that they can and should be released with no threat to public safety. It will build a public base to encourage policy-makers, parole commissioners and correctional officials to accelerate release of the elderly through both new and existing mechanisms for release.

Note 1:
In 2011, after years of struggle over boilerplate denials to violent offenders, New York’s Executive Law was amended requiring the parole board to create new procedures that “incorporate risk and needs principles” to measure decision-making. The board adopted the widely used evidence-based “Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanction” (COMPAS) assessment tool.

But the board has remained resistant to change and continues to issue boilerplates denying release based on the “nature of the crime.” This is one example of an already-existing mechanism that could be used for release of aging prisoners.

WHO WE ARE

Mujahid Farid, RAPP Campaign Organizer:

In 1978 at age 28 I entered prison. In 2011 I was released approaching 62.
The closer I got to my release date, the more I looked around at the men I would be leaving behind— many of whom had, like me, been incarcerated since their teens and twenties, and who were now, like me, more than 60 or 70 years old. I became more sharply aware of the increasing infirmities they face, the frailties of age, and the illnesses affecting them.

Like me, they had spent their entire adult lives in prison, and most were different from the person who had first entered the system.

Unlike me, they were not going home.

As a result of many years behind the walls of New York State prisons, I gained valuable insight into the various mechanisms responsible for mass incarceration, and I have been an advocate for systemic change, using community education and challenging the accepted social constructs that lend support to the carceral spirit.

During my incarceration, I maintained a practice of working on criminal justice issues, and the project proposed here is consistent with my activities over the past thirty-five years.

I played a major role in creating programs that helped the prison population deal with social crises.
One of my most noted accomplishments was being a founder of the Prisoners’ AIDS Counseling & Education (PACE) program, still in existence within NYSDOCCS. I organized and instructed courses for New York Theological Seminary, allowing other prisoners to earn college-credited certificates to initiate their journey into structured higher learning.

Since my release I initiated a collective of small business startups to address the issue of mass incarceration. These small business initiators have agreed to operate under principles of “social entrepreneurship” to provide formerly incarcerated persons, as well as disadvantaged community members, with employment opportunities and the ability to assist in building economic institutions in the community.

Our agreement entails providing mutual assistance to make each business successful, and to generate collaborative relationships between for -profit start-ups and community non-profits/social services agencies.
Finally, our agreement entails building support in the established business community.

With the encouragement of many people I left behind in prison and with whom I maintain contact, I have also proposed to various organizations to undertake the issue of aging in prison.

I was met with much sympathy and concern over the issue, but have been unable to find any organization willing to undertake a major project as described herein. Community-driven projects advocating on behalf of
aging and persons usually excluded from ameliorative legislation, policies, and practices are crucial now due to the volume of reports, studies, and commentaries published on this issue in the past two years.

The time to harness public consciousness on these issues is now.

So, I have undertaken this task.

This project arises from my commitment and belief that this situation can and must be altered, that release mechanisms for aging people confined must either be created or, where they exist, utilized.
I feel blessed and fortunate to be out, knowing that the tribulation of perennial incarceration could still be happening to me as it is to others.

As someone personally affected, I care deeply about those I left behind, and I remain committed to doing my part in bringing forth solutions.

Correctional Association of New York
The RAPP Campaign is located at and hosted by the Correctional Association of New York (CANY), an independent, non – profit prison reform organization. CANY was founded by concerned citizens in 1844 and granted unique authority by the New York State Legislature to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the legislature and to the public.

Through monitoring, research, public education and policy recommendations, the Correctional Association strives to make the administration of justice in New York State more fair, efficient and humane.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

To get more information, offer your story, or join our efforts, please contact:

RAPP Campaign
c/o The Correctional Association of New York
2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.– Suite 200
New York, New York 10027

Phone: 212-254-5700 Extension 317
Fax: 212-473-2807

Graying Prisoners

From:  New York Times
Aug 18th 2013, 
By Jamie Fellner, a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch, focusing on criminal justice in the United States.

MORE and more United States prisons resemble nursing homes with bars, where the elderly and infirm eke out shrunken lives. Prison isn’t easy for anyone, but it is especially punishing for those afflicted by the burdens of old age. Yet the old and the very old make up the fastest-growing segment of the prison population.

Today, the New York State Board of Parole is scheduled to decide whether to give medical parole to Anthony D. Marshall, who was convicted of stealing from his mother, Brooke Astor. Mr. Marshall is 89 and suffers from Parkinson’s and congestive heart failure. His lawyers say he cannot stand or dress himself. He is one of at least 26,100 men and women 65 and older incarcerated in state and federal prisons, up 62 percent in just five years.

Owing largely to decades of tough-on-crime policies — mandatory minimum sentences, “three strikes” laws and the elimination of federal parole — these numbers are likely to increase as more and more prisoners remain incarcerated into their 70s and 80s, many until they die.

I try to imagine my 90-year-old father in prison. His body and mind whittled by age, he shuffles, takes a painful eternity to get up from a chair and forgets the names of his grandchildren.

How would he fare climbing in and out of an upper bunk bed? Would he remember where his cell was in the long halls of many prisons? How would his brittle bones cope with a thin mattress and blanket in a cold cell in winter, or his weak heart with the summer heat. If he had an “accident,” would someone help him clean up? Unlike Mr. Marshall, some older inmates committed violent crimes, and there are people who think such prisoners should leave prison only “in a pine box.”


Read the rest here.

Dying inside: The elderly in prison


Plan to spend about 20 minutes weeping, if you tune into this documentary on aging in US prisons. Thank you, Jeremy Young and Al Jazeera.

———————-from Al Jazeera—————————-

Our program has aired and is finally up online—it is titled “Dying Inside: Elderly in Prison”. Here is the link to the show, please let me know your thoughts and feedback:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xvqj8hgxRfg


If you toggle the settings on you tube from 360 to 720 and you have a strong internet connection the quality of the video is very vivid. Please feel free to share the video with whomever.

Many thanks to all of those people that helped us out along the way….your contributions are greatly appreciated!

Jeremy Young

Al Jazeera English- The Americas

1627 K Street, 11th Floor

Washington, D.C. 20006

Work- 202.496.4543

Cell- 202.651.1632

al Jazeera English: Dying inside: Elderly in Prison

Part 2:

This was aired on Al Jazeera English, from June 5th 2010:

The US’ massive prison population is getting older.

Long sentences that were handed out decades ago are catching up with the American justice system.

Prisons across the country are dedicating entire units just to house the elderly.

During difficult economic times, the issue has hit a crisis point. Estimates are that locking up an older inmate costs three times as much as a younger one.

How are prisons dealing with this issue? Who are the prisoners that are turning gray behind bars?

Josh Rushing gains exclusive and unprecedented access to jails and prisons across the country to tell the story.