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

Prisoner at Ely Denied Surgery – Now Barely Able to Walk

ACLU NV:

Submitted by Rahul Sharma on Thu, 03/10/2011

On March 5th, the ACLU of Nevada submitted a friend -of-the-court brief in support of John Snow, an elderly man at Ely State Prison who has been repeatedly denied hip surgery, and who, as a result, is now barely able to walk and has severely damaged kidneys.

In September of 2006, Mr. Snow saw an orthopedist retained by the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), who diagnosed him with severe degenerative arthritis of the hips. Four months later, at a follow-up appointment, the orthopedist wrote that Mr. Snow could “barely walk” and that “[t]here is no option here other than surgery for relief.” NDOC denied surgery at least three times, despite urgent recommendations and a finding that the medications Mr. Snow needs to manage his hip pain are toxic to his kidneys. As of this date, Mr. Snow still has not had surgery.

In January of 2008, Mr. Snow filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that NDOC officials had been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In preparations for trial, a former nurse at the prison testified that one doctor said of Mr. Snow, “This guy’s an asshole. I’m not going to treat him.” Evidence also showed that in response to one of Mr. Snow’s medical requests, a physician’s assistant wrote that he was “gonna let [Mr. Snow] suffer.” (The physician’s assistant now asserts that his response to Mr. Snow was meant to be “tongue-in-cheek.”)

The ACLU of Nevada argues in its brief that Mr. Snow’s case should be allowed to go to trial, as there is ample evidence for a jury to find that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs.
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Unfortunately, Mr. Snow’s circumstance is only a symptom of the prison crisis recently discussed in our report, Not Fit for Human Consumption or Habitation: Nevada’s Prisons in Crisis. Medical care at Ely State Prison, the same prison in Mr. Snow’s case, was also the subject of a 2008 class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Nevada and the ACLU’s National Prison Project. The lawsuit charged that a pattern of grossly inadequate medical care at the facility created a substantial risk of serious harm for every prisoner incarcerated there.

The ACLU of Nevada hopes Mr. Snow can find redress in the courts for the inhumane treatment he has suffered. It also hopes that NDOC and the Nevada Legislature will work to keep future cases like this from happening.

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.

Are elderly prisoners really a threat to public safety?

Nursing homes with razor wire
Are elderly prisoners really a threat to public safety?
By David Fathi
LA Times
December 23, 2009

Sometime in the 1970s, the United States began a love affair with incarceration that continues to this day. After holding nearly steady for decades, our prison population began to climb as criminal justice policy took a sharply punitive turn, with the massive criminalization of drug use, “three strikes” laws and other harsh sentencing practices. More people were going to prison, and staying there longer. By 2005, the prison population was six times what it had been in 1975.

One little-known side effect of this population explosion has been a sharp increase in the number of elderly people behind bars. According to the Justice Department, in 1980 the United States had about 9,500 prisoners age 55 and older; by 2008, the number had increased tenfold, to 94,800. That same year, the number of prisoners 50 and older was just shy of 200,000 — about the size of the entire U.S. prison population in the early 1970s.

People age 50 or 55 may seem a bit young to be classified as elderly. But because their lives have often been characterized by poverty, trauma and limited access to medical care and rehabilitative services, most prisoners are physiologically older than their chronological age would suggest, and more likely to have disabling medical conditions than the general population. One study cited by Ronald H. Aday in his 1994 article in Federal Probation concluded that the average prisoner over 50 has a physiological age 11.5 years older than his chronological age.

With 1 in 11 U.S. prisoners serving a life sentence — in some states, the figure is 1 in 6 — it’s no surprise that the number of elderly prisoners is skyrocketing. In 2007, the New York Times profiled then-89-year-old Charles Friedgood, a New York state prisoner who had served more than 30 years of a life sentence for second-degree murder. Although he had terminal cancer and had undergone several operations, including a colostomy, he had been denied parole five times before being released in 2007. Friedgood at least had the opportunity to apply for parole; in some states, parole has been abolished, and a life sentence means exactly that.

Being in prison is hard on anyone, but the elderly face special dangers, particularly if they are ill or disabled. Some have complex medical and mental health needs that prisons are ill-equipped to handle. Many prisons are not accessible to persons with mobility impairments; for them, bathing, using the toilet or even getting in and out of their cells can be a difficult, dangerous challenge. And older prisoners are more likely to be robbed, assaulted or otherwise victimized.

Some states have so many elderly prisoners that they have built special facilities to house them. Several years ago I visited the Ahtanum View Corrections Center, Washington state’s prison for the elderly. Everywhere I looked were aged, frail, disabled people, some of whom could barely move without assistance. The prison’s webpage helpfully points out that a volunteer clergy team is available to assist prisoners with “end-of-life issues.”

The main justification for incarceration is to protect public safety. But it’s hard to see the public safety rationale for keeping so many elderly people in prison.

It’s even harder to understand the economic justification. Incarceration is expensive — about $24,000 per year for the average prisoner, according to a 2008 Pew Center on the States report. Keeping someone over 55 locked up costs about three times as much. Given that criminal behavior drops off dramatically with advancing age, this is a major investment for very little return.

As the United States faces its worst fiscal crisis in decades, many states are taking a hard look at their prisons, which consume a large and increasing portion of state budgets. As part of this long overdue re-examination, lawmakers should ask whether so many elderly people really need to be in prison and whether the state should be in the business of operating nursing homes with razor wire.

David Fathi is director of the U.S. division at Human Rights Watch.

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-fathi24-2009dec24,0,1216548.story