Message from Maroon – Action Alert

From the Human Rights Coalition – Action Alert:


“This was the third strike – now we either go hard, or go home.”
Greetings! A very happy new year to all my supporters and loved ones!
By now you are aware that I am being housed in an underground cell at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Graterford, in a part of the Restricted Housing Unit known as J Block, which is used to house the criminally insane.
My rapid response team has also got word to you about the conditions in this dungeon: a few days after my arrival I cleaned the human feces off the walls of my cell with my own hands; when it rains, water leaks through a hole in the roof and floods my cell – with heavy rains expected, I am sure this problem will only get worse.
The screaming and banging coming from the surrounding cells of mentally challenged inmates, plus the 24-hour fluorescent lights, make it impossible to concentrate, let alone sleep.
Those of you who have been closely following my situation know that I am being subjected to these conditions DESPITE successfully completing the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC)’s 60-day “step-down” program at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Frackville, which was conducted with the express purpose of releasing me from the hole into the general prison population.
My current circumstances make two things very clear:
  • First, that the Department of Corrections CANNOT be trusted to play by their own rules;
  • Second, that my isolation in the hole has NOTHING to do with administrative or disciplinary concerns but is instead a punishment for my political beliefs, and the prison administration’s fear that these beliefs will reach other prisoners.  They fear that I will awaken the dead . . .
For years, the PA DOC has tried to crush my fighting spirit by keeping me locked up in the hole. This move to SCI Graterford – my third transfer in six months – is just the latest in a series of attempts to test my resolve; it is also, in my opinion, the third strike.
I am here to tell you all that my will is holding strong. I am a political prisoner: imprisoned because I stood up against oppression, and I continue to support all those who stand up against repression everywhere.
My perspective is one thousand years of struggle. My commitment has been – and will always be – the liberation of black people. In that spirit let me say that 2014 is not going to be a year of taking abuse and torture lying down: it is a year in which we either go HARD, or go HOME!
I am calling on you, my supporters, loved ones and friends, to answer that call. This year I am asking you all to do whatever it takes to end the torture of 23-hour isolation and bring an end to this miscarriage of justice.
STRAIGHT AHEAD!           
Russell MAROON Shoatz
# AF-3855, 
P.O. Box 244, 
Graterford, PA 19426-0246
***
ACTION ALERT & UPDATE: CONTINUE THE PRESSURE!
Thank you to all supporters for answering the call to action!  Your phone calls and letters are WORKING.  Maroon received a blanket, clothes, his personal belongings, and his medication. 
Maroon appreciates all your support and diligent action on his behalf. 
However, he is not OUT of this torturous situation.  SCI Graterford authorities still have him buried in solitary confinement – the same Restricted Housing Unit for the criminally insane.  It is an underground dungeon that floods and where the lights are on 24 hours a day.  It is also where Maroon has to endure continuous banging and cries for help from mentally ill prisoners suffering in the same unit.
The time is now to RAMP UP the pressure on Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) Secretary John Wetzel and SCI Superintendent Wenerowicz and Graterford authorities demanding that they immediately remove Maroon from this present condition and release him into general population.    
PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel and PA DOC administrators continue to double cross Maroon by not fulfilling their verbal and written promises to release him into general population even after successfully completing a 60 day Step Down Program at SCI Frackville last fall 2013.
As Maroon stated, “the Dept. of Corrections cannot be trusted to play by their own rules.”
We are asking supporters to INTENSIFY the calls, faxes, and letters to PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel, Superintendent Wenerocwicz, and Graterford authorities.   Remember, Maroon has made the call to “go HARD or go home!”
CALL, FAX, & SEND SEPARATE LETTERS TO:
SCI Graterford Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz
 and 
SCI Graterford RHU J Block Manager Mr. Terra,
P.O. Box 246, 
Graterford, PA 19426-0246 
Phone: 610-489-4151 
FAX: 484-961-7907 
to let them know:
·  We are concerned members of the community who are monitoring the situations involving inmate Russell Shoatz and the conditions he is being held under,
·  We are expecting that SCI Graterford will be accepting the information regarding Shoatz’ successful completion of the step-down program at SCI Frackville, and their recommendation that he be released from Restricted Housing into General Population,
·  We hold PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel and PA DOC administrators responsible for failing to fulfill their promises to release Russell Shoatz into General Population,
·  We request that you immediately remove Russell Shoatz out of the J Block cell for the criminally insane because he doesn’t belong nor deserve to be there, the conditions are torturous, and he is not under Disciplinary Custody, AND
·  We also request that SCI Graterford transfer Russell Shoatz into General Population as promised by Secretary Wetzel and PA DOC authorities.
For letters and faxes, please use the same talking points (letters: return receipt requested).
CALL, FAX, & SEND LETTERS OF CONCERN, PA DOC SUPERINTENDENT JOHN WETZEL, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050, Phone: 717-728-4109, FAX 717-728-4178 to let him know:
·  We are frustrated and angry at the continued delays, and unfulfilled promises, and unwarranted treatment of inmate Russell Shoatz with his most recent transfer into a feces infested cell where the criminally insane are housed in the J Block unit at SCI Graterford.
·  His consistent good faith efforts to abide by all State Correctional procedures for transfer to general population have successfully earned him the support of prison official and administrators at SCI Mahanoy and Frackville.
·  In light of recent US Department of Justice findings that Pennsylvania State Prisons have used solitary confinement in direct violation of inmates’ constitutional rights, and United Nations guidelines regarding the illegality of using restrictive housing for punitive, long-term purposes, we write with concern that Shoatz’ continued placement in restricted housing constitutes an act of torture: cruel and unusual punishment.

·  As voters and community members, we demand Shoatz’ immediate release into general population, and will continue to closely monitor this situation until Shoatz’ conditions are safe and legal.

Special "SCI Cresson Investigation" Edition of HRC Report

This was reblogged from: Pennsylvania Prison Report

Special “SCI Cresson Investigation” Edition

June 6, 2013
On Friday May 31, the United States Justice Department issued a report on its 18-month investigation of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ (PADOC) prison in Cambria County, State Correctional Institution (SCI) Cresson, finding that the solitary confinement of people with serious mental illness and intellectual disabilities is in violation of both the U.S. Constitution’s 8th Amendment and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The announcement came in a findings letter detailing the results of its investigation of SCI Cresson by attorneys with the Justice Department’s Special Litigations Section of the Civil Rights Division, working in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Pennsylvania. The letter also notified PA governor Corbett that both agencies are expanding their investigation to include all 28 prisons under the control of the PADOC.

The investigation, launched in December 2011, set out to find whether SCI Cresson was violating the constitutional rights of prisoners to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by subjecting mentally illl prisoners to the psychologically damaging conditions of long-term solitary confinement and depriving them of mental health care.

SCI Cresson, built in 1987, housed the PA Department of Corrections’ second-largest Secure Special Needs Unit (SSNU), a type of solitary confinement unit used for the isolation (and on paper, the treatment) of mentally ill prisoners. In January 2013, the PA DOC announced its intention to close the prison– three months after members of the investigation team met with PA DOC leadership and Cresson Superintendent Kenneth Cameron to discuss concerns about information received during the investigation. As of April 2013, the SSNU had been emptied and the prison held less than 400 prisoners (down from approx.1600).

Warehousing the Mentally Ill

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) letter, briefly summarized in a press release, catalogs a long list of human rights violations that will be familiar to readers of the Prison Report, centering on conditions of extreme isolation coupled with additional cruel and degrading punishments inflicted by staff, presided over by a prison administration that not only ignored wrongdoing by prison staff, but also actively prevented seriously mentally ill prisoners from receiving treatment.

The DOJ found that “Cresson routinely locks prisoners with serious mental illness in their cells for roughly 23 hours per day for months, even years, at a time. At Cresson, the prolonged isolation is all the harder for many prisoners with serious mental illness to endure because it involves harsh and punitive living conditions and, often, unnecessary staff- on-prisoner uses of force.” The report noted that placement of mentally ill prisoners in the prison’s solitary confinement units was intentional; not the consequence of a failure to identify those who are most vulnerable to such psychologically destructive conditions, but as a matter of systematic and deliberate practice.

The resulting harms have been catastrophic: “Cresson’s practice of subjecting prisoners with serious mental illness to prolonged periods of isolation under the conditions described in this letter has resulted in harm, including trauma, bouts of hysteria and extreme paranoia, severe depression, psychosis, serious self-injury and mutilation, and suicide.” Corroborating this conclusion is the fact that although less than 10% of the prison’s total population is held in solitary confinement, during the previous year and-a-half, 2 of the 3 suicides and 14 of the 17 suicide attempts at SCI Cresson occurred in these units. Both of the suicides in the solitary units (which HRC reported on shortly after they happened) occurred after requests for mental health care were ignored by staff.

(Links to HRC reports on the 2 suicides in Cresson’s solitary units: “In Memory of Brandon Palakovic” and “Prison staff scramble to cover up circumstances of suicide at SCI Cresson“)

In one of the more graphic examples of self-harm described in the DOJ report, one prisoner was said to have “tore open his scrotum with his fingernail while housed at the RHU after experiencing isolation and a lack of adequate treatment there for three months. In the three days preceding this incident, BB cut his arm with a staple, smeared feces on himself while complaining of hearing voices, and tore off a fingernail. After the incident involving BB injuring his scrotum, he told staff that ‘mental health won’t listen to me so I’m pulling my nuts out.'”

A prisoner who has spent more than 7 of the last 12 years in solitary confinement in PADOC prisons told the DOJ that “isolation makes me want to rip my face off.” Emphasizing the seemingly endless duration of indefinite isolation, another prisoner stated that confinement in the SSNU “feel[s] like it will last the rest of [your] life.”

Torment and Punishment

Among the most disturbing of the investigation’s findings is the degree to which dehumanizing and harmful treatment of prisoners at Cresson was normalized and incorporated into the routine operations of the prison. Though the SSNU was supposedly intended for the treatment of seriously mentally ill prisoners, by policy and practice unit staff were encouraged to react to behavior symptomatic of severe mental illness with “aversive” measures intended to punish. Shouting, throwing feces, or banging one’s head into the wall were consistently responded to with violence by prison staff. The routine use of full-body restraints for extensive periods of time (avg 10.5 hours), using tasers on prisoners who were already fully restrained, forcing prisoners to sleep on cold concrete without a mattress, denial of food, exercise, visits and reading materials, were all regular tools of SCI Cresson staff.

Readers of the Prison Report, former prisoners, and family members will recognize these as regular tools of staff at most or all PA DOC prisons. Punishment of those with mental health needs results in a predictable cycle of dysfunction wherein psychological decompensation is exacerbated by violent repression. This recurring cycle is a phenomenon that is noted in virtually every human rights report, academic or clinical study, court case, or government report assessing conditions of solitary confinement across the country during the past 30 years. The DOJ report described the cycle of dysfunction as follows:

“At Cresson, prisoners with serious mental illness are often subjected to a toxic combination of conditions that include: prolonged isolation, harsh housing conditions, punitive behavior modification plans, and excessive uses of force. These conditions, intended to control these prisoners’ behavior, serve only to exacerbate their mental illness. Frequently, these conditions combine to do serious harm in the following way: a prisoner with serious mental illness is placed in isolation with inadequate mental health care, causing him to decompensate and behave negatively; staff respond by subjecting the prisoner to harsher living conditions, denying him stimuli, and/or using excessive force against him; the prisoner’s mental health continues to deteriorate, and he begins to engage in self-injurious conduct (e.g., banging his head hard and repeatedly against a concrete wall, ingesting objects, or hurling himself against the metal furnishings of his room) or attempts to kill himself; staff eventually respond by placing him in the MHU – a unit where a limited amount of treatment is provided; as soon as the prisoner begins to stabilize, he is returned to isolation, and the prisoner’s mental health again spirals downward.”

Noting that Cresson views “serious mental illness [as] intentional misbehavior that must be punished rather than treated,” the DOJ found that prison staff responded to “behaviors mostly or entirely derivative of mental illness” by deprivations such as “forcing the prisoner to sleep on cement slabs without a mattress; denying the prisoner access to warm food and instead giving him nothing but “food loaf” to eat; denying access to reading materials; denying the prisoner access to the caged, exercise pens; denying the prisoner access to showers; and restricting or eliminating the prisoner’s already limited ability to make phone calls or engage in non-contact visits with loved ones or friends.”

The culture of abuse on display at Cresson included tasering and pepper-spraying suicidal prisoners and leaving their arms and legs strapped to a concrete slab or bed for more than 10 hours at a time. In one incident, prison guards responded to an act of self-harm by placing the prisoner in four-point restraints, and tasering him with “a handheld electronic body immobilization device” when he requested that a mattress be placed on the metal bed prior to his being strapped down. He remained strapped down for nearly 15 hours. Another prisoner was placed in a restraint chair after slamming head first into his cell door, and was tasered seven times and pepper-sprayed in the face twice during the 24-hour period he was in the restraint chair.

In some instances prisoners were double-celled in the solitary confinement units with violent, predatory prisoners, including one case where a diagnosed schizophrenic poured boiling water on another prisoner, who was himself a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and with an IQ of 48. The boiling water caused blistering of the skin.

The DOJ concluded that Cresson lacks a “functioning residential treatment unit,” and that the SSNU does not “even resemble” a treatment unit. When prisoners in the isolation units are provided out-of-cell therapy, “the therapy is generally provided to the prisoner while he sits in a small cage roughly the size of a telephone booth.” According to the DOJ, one of the major causal factors of these conditions are staffing shortages that make it impossible for mental health professionals to provide necessary care.

Instead of any semblance of the residential treatment unit or programming, the DOJ found a prison where the sick torture the sick, and the endless depths of isolation are punctuated only by guard violence, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, and death.

What’s next?

The impact that the release of the DOJ/US Attorney’s Office investigation findings will have remains unclear. Because conditions at Cresson appear to be indicative of systemic patterns throughout the PA DOC, the DOJ has now taken the unprecedented move of expanding the investigation to include all solitary confinement units of the state’s prison system. However, the office of the DOJ tasked with the investigation- the Special Litigations Section of the Civil Rights Division- does not have the power to prosecute, and under the controlling statute- the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA)- the PA DOC is allowed the opportunity to voluntarily remedy the unconstitutional conditions found by the DOJ. Failure to do so means that the DOJ will be permitted- but not required- to file a lawsuit in federal court to enforce the Constitution.

At this time, it appears that all PA DOC staff complicit in the abuse, torture, and negligent treatment of severely mentally ill prisoners at SCI Cresson have not in any way been held accountable for their actions by either PA DOC or law enforcement agencies– in fact, the opposite has occurred: the prison’s chief psychologist James Harrington, who presided over the atrocities in Cresson’s “treatment units”, was recently promoted to the newly created position of Regional Chief Psychologist, in charge of overseeing the mental health services of seven PA DOC prisons.

***

We end this report with a quote from Renee Palakovic, whose son Brandon committed suicide while caged in SCI Cresson’s isolation units in July 2012 (read Renee’s full statement):

“..On Friday, May 31st (2013) when I read the news articles and eventually the Justice Department report later in the weekend, the pain that I have been fighting to control and manage every minute of every day came flooding back in a real and powerful way that I was not prepared for.

..What psychiatrist does this to a patient? He was ignored. Placed in solitary for extended periods of time and treated like an animal. Taunted by guards who found amusement in toying with his mind and his emotions and given the opportunity to harm himself.

..To read the Justice Department’s report and find that his requests for help were ignored, his visits with the psychiatrist skipped and his treatment reduced to ongoing and never-ending confinement in a small cement cell made my heart break all over again and quite frankly, made me mad as hell.

..My son was more than just a prisoner confined to a cell in a state correctional institution. I will keep telling myself this, because it is true. But until state correctional institutions believe it and operate based upon it, more and more sons and daughters will become victims of the callous and irresponsible treatment seen behind the walls of Cresson SCI.”

**************

If you’d like to know more about the Human Rights Coalition or would like to get involved, call us at 267-293-9169, email info@hrcoalition.org, or visit our website at http://www.hrcoalition.org./

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 hrcfedup@gmail.com or call 412-654-9070.

This is 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!

Copyright © 2013 Human Rights Coalition – FedUp!, All rights reserved.

Russell Maroon Shoatz Out of Solitary NOW!

Action Alert: Russell Maroon Shoatz Out of Solitary NOW!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Action Alert : Call now to demand the IMMEDIATE release of Russell Maroon Shoatz from solitary confinement!

Former Black Panther Russell Maroon Shoatz has been held in torturous conditions of solitary confinement in Pennsylvania prisons for the past thirty years. He has not had a serious rule violation for more than two decades. Maroon’s role as an educator, human rights defender, writer, and critical intellectual of liberation movements is widely renowned.
From April 8 to May 10, the Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz is calling for an intense call-in and write-in campaign to bring pressure on the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC), to release Maroon from solitary confinement and into the general prison population. This is the first major phase of a coordinated political-legal campaign, beginning with Maroon’s attorneys sending a “Demand Letter” to the PA DOC on the morning of April 8, 2013. The letter, outlining the legal and humanitarian reasons why an immediate release from solitary is needed, gives the PA DOC an opportunity to correct the grave injustices being carried out on a daily basis before litigation begins.
Maroon needs your help! Here’s how:
April 8
-Begin flooding the office of PA Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary John Wetzel with phone calls, letters, and faxes. Send a copy of that letter, or address a similar letter, to the office of SCI Mahanoy Superintendent John Kerestes.(download sample letter)   (download sample letter)

PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel                        SCI Mahanoy Supt. John Kerestes
1920 Technology Parkway                                   301 Morea Road
Mechanicsburg, PA, 17050                                  Mahanoy, PA, 17932
Phone number: 717-728-4109                           Phone number: 570-773-2158
Fax number: 717-728-4178                                Fax number: 570-783-2008
If you have contact with media in your area, consider suggesting that they cover this story, including the April 8 – May 10 pressure campaign.
Help publicize the campaign in schools, workplaces, churches, and communities nationwide. (download press release)
Talking Points
  • Russell Maroon Shoatz (if writing DOC, always put his prison number – AF-3855) has been in solitary confinement for almost 30 years despite the fact that his disciplinary record has been impeccable-without incident for the past 20 of those years.
  • Such “prolonged” solitary confinement is a violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, according to UN Special Rapporteur Juan Mendez. It starves the mind of basic social interaction, human contact, and intellectual stimulation needed for proper brain functioning.
  • Other Pennsylvania prisoners with more extensive violent histories and more recent disciplinary infractions have nevertheless been released from solitary and are now held in general population.
  • Maroon is being targeted because of his work as an educator and because of his political ideas; his time in solitary began just after he was elected president of an officially-sanctioned prison-based support group. This targeting is in violation of his basic human and constitutional rights.
  • At age 69, Maroon poses no threat to the physical well-being or running of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. His 23-hour-a-day physical isolation in solitary is unnecessary and costly.
  • The American Civil Liberties Union, Physicians for Human Rights, and a growing number of prominent world leaders are calling for an end to prolonged solitary confinement. Maroon’s case is one of the most egregious, politically motivated, and long-standing of the nation’s solitary cases.
  • Maroon has deep roots in Pennsylvania’s Black community, many friends in peace, justice, and human rights organizations, and family members and supporters throughout the State, the USA, and the world. We understand the PA DOC Secretary’s Office and the Warden of SCI Greene to be particularly and personally responsible for the torturous and lethal conditions of solitary under which Maroon is still kept.
  • Maroon must be released from solitary confinement IMMEDIATELY!!!
Who is Russell Maroon Shoatz?
Russell Maroon Shoatz is a former leader of the Black Panthers and the Black freedom movement, born in Philadelphia in 1943 and originally imprisoned in January 1972 for actions relating to his political involvement. With an extraordinary thirty-plus years spent in solitary confinement-including the past twenty-three years continuously-Maroon’s case is one of the most shocking examples of U.S. torture of political prisoners, and one of the most egregious examples of human rights violations regarding prison conditions anywhere in the world. His “Maroon” nickname is, in part, due to his continued resistance-which twice led him to escape confinement; it is also based on his continued clear analysis, including recent writings on ecology and matriarchy. THOUGH MAROON WAS RECENTLY TRANSFERRED to a lower-security correctional facility in Central Pennsylvania, he IS STILL HELD in a SOLITARY CONFINEMENT UNIT. It will take a mass, grassroots movement to free this inspiring community activist.
Part of the momentum for the campaign will come from a book tour taking place during this period, promoting the newly-published Maroon the Implacable: The collected writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz
. But it is up to everyone concerned with human rights anywhere and everywhere to spread the word far and wide, to make these 30 days count-for an end to solitary confinement and an end to the torture of Russell Maroon Shoatz.
Campaign to Free Russell Maroon Shoatz, freemaroonshoatz@gmail.com,
c/o WRL/Matt Meyer, 339 Lafayette Street, New York NY 10012

Preliminary Hearing sends Guard to Trial

From: Human Rights Coalition: PA Prison Report, Dec. 12, 2011
Courtroom Beat

Preliminary Hearing sends Guard to Trial: The preliminary hearing for Harry Nicoletti, a guard suspended from SCI Pittsburgh and arrested on felony charges of institutional sexual assault and criminal solicitation, took place December 7 through the 9 in Pittsburgh. Judge Gene Ricciardi ruled that enough evidence was presented by the prosecution to send Nicoletti to trial. The judge held 101 charges that will be ruled on in the Allegheny Court of Common Pleas.

During the hearing, the prosecution called 31 witnesses to testify, most of whom were former or current prisoners. Some testified as victims of assault, and others testified that Nicoletti encouraged them to assault other prisoners for rewards. Patrick Hogan testified that Nicoletti ordered him to put cigarette ashes in the food of another prisoner who was mentally slow, and then pour the rest of the food on the prisoner’s head and smear it on his chest. Hogan also testified that the mentally slow prisoner was ordered to jump up and down for a long time, stand with his nose against a door, and then was ordered to strip down, and was probed with a broom handle. Richard Cavallero testified that when he was at SCI Pittsburgh, he beat up 30 other prisoners while Nicoletti turned his head.

The defense worked to discredit the testimony, inquiring why prisoners did not report to higher officials, and why none of them sought medical attention. One prisoner said he kept quiet for fear of being sent to solitary. One said that he reported the abuse when he was transferred to SCI Camp Hill and they did nothing. Another prisoner said, “I told him I didn’t want to do it. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to fight him. … What am I going to do, punch him in the face?”

Department of Corrections statistics from 2010 indicate that 98% of prisoner grievances are denied, despite the Department of Corrections maintaining that the prisoner grievance system provides meaningful oversight of prisoner complaints and abuse. The Department of Justice recently opened an investigation into official abuse at SCI Pittsburgh and SCI Cresson, both in Pennsylvania.

Monday July 11th: Prisoner Call in Day!

Via Email from the Human Rights Coalition:

Both HRC-Philadelphia and HRC-Fed UP! are having our Prisoner Call in Day on Monday, July 11, for the community to pull together to have an call-in day to Prisons and Legislatures in demanding justice for our brothas and sistas who are incarcerated and facing emergency crises, such as medical, physical and sexual abuse.

HRC-Philly will be from 9am to 12pm, at the LAVA Space. 4134 Lancaster Ave.
HRC-Fed-UP! (Pittsburgh) will be until 4pm at 5129 Penn Avenue

But don’t worry if you can’t make it in to the office, so long as you can find a phone you can help by making the following calls:

Help remove abusive guards from Frackville’s solitary units: For the last few months the Human Rights Coalition has received numerous reports from prisoners in Frackville’s solitary units about abuse by prison guard Shaeffer and Sergeant Wickersham. This abuse includes being denied meals, showers, yard, and being repeatedly verbally harassed. Despite numerous grievances being filed about these two guards behavior, and pleas for the guards to be moved out of the solitary units, they have yet to be moved or held accountable for this behavior.

Please Call the Superintendent Collins at Frackville and Central Office, inform
them of this behavior and demand that CO Shaeffer and Sgt. Wickersham be
moved out of the RHU, and disciplinary steps are taken.

(570) 874-4516- Frackville – ask to be connected to the Superintendent’s office, request to speak with Superintendent Collins or the Superintendent’s Assistant, Peter Damiter

717-975-4859- Central Office – ask to speak with Secretary John Wetzel, Deputy Secretary John Murray, or somebody from their office.

For more information on call-in day or how to get involved in the struggle against the prison-industrial complex contact the Human Rights Coalition:
hrc.support.philly@gmail.com, 215.921.3491 or hrcfedup@gmail.com in Pgh, 412-654-9070

Prison Abuse Logs 2007-2011

From: the Human Rights Coalition:

Prison Abuse Logs
The result of over four years of investigation into prison conditions inside Pennsylvania’s jails and prisons, the Prison Abuse Logs consist of more than 900 entries detailing human rights violations by prison officials and law enforcement. Despite repeated efforts to notify county, state, and federal law enforcement, along with elected officials of evidence of criminal acts being perpetrated by prison authorities and staff, every level of government has consistently turned a blind eye to routine, institutionalized attacks on the human rights of prisoners.

The Human Rights Coalition hopes that the release of these documents will aid journalists, lawyers, researchers, policymakers, and community organizers in efforts to shed light on the systematic abuse and torture of prisoners.

Information contained in the logs has been reported to the Human Rights Coalition by prisoners, their family members and supporters. HRC has no way to independently verify each entry; readers are encouraged to investigate on their own.

Many of the entries contain descriptions of abuse, torture and violence, and may be upsetting.

Prison Abuse Logs
Excel Spreadsheet (sortable)

Prison Abuse Logs pdf file (reverse chronological order)

New report details systematic torture and abuse of prisoners in Pennsylvania State Prison

From: Human Rights Coalition-Fed Up! Chapter

RELEASE: New report details systematic torture and abuse of prisoners in Pennsylvania State Prison

Contact: Amanda Johnson – hrcfedup@gmail.com – (716) 238-4089

April 25, 2011 – After a year-long investigation, the Human Rights Coalition has issued a report on the conditions of incarceration for people in the solitary confinement units at the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. The report, Unity and Courage, examines discriminatory practices of the PA Department of Corrections and portrays the efforts of a group of prisoners engaging in nonviolent and peaceful protest to demand their basic human rights.

Unity and Courage documents a culture of abuse fostered by prison staff, characterized by the excessive use of force, assaults by officers, use of racial slurs, forced cell extractions, chemical gassing, destruction of legal paperwork, torture devices, and deprivation of food and water. The Human Rights Coalition began its investigation of the use of solitary confinement at Huntingdon in December 2009, when a prisoner committed suicide after being denied mental health treatment by prison staff.

Prisoners began an organized campaign of resistance in September of 2010, by refusing to come in from the exercise yard until they could speak with public officials about their treatment. Correctional officers wheeled out canisters of chemical spray, hosing the prisoners down until they would comply with orders to be handcuffed and returned to their cells, where they were denied showers and medical attention for days. Some were put in isolation cells and had to sleep naked on concrete slabs.

Approximately 2,500 men and women are housed in solitary confinement units across the state. They are in small, brightly lit cells 23 hours a day, with little or no ability to communicate with family, and no access to educational and rehabilitative programming. At Huntingdon, solitary confinement prisoners are dependent on correctional officers to receive food, have access to showers, exercise and law library, and to exchange ingoing and outgoing mail. With severe restrictions on outside contact and a Departmhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifent of Corrections abuse monitoring system that is shielded from external scrutiny, policies and practices of systemic abuse at the prison go unchecked at the cost of prisoners’ health and lives.

“Their goal is to stop us from speaking out against them,” wrote Huntingdon protester Kyle Klein, “but it will never work, not a chance in hell, or the hell we are in. Even when winning is impossible, quitting is far from optional.”

Contact info of public officials who received advance copies of Unity and Courage

Justice for Terrell Community Teach-in

From the Human Rights Coalition, via Email:

February 22nd at 5:00
East Liberty Branch Library
130 S. Whitfield St.

Come hear the story of Terrell Johnson, a man who has been incarcerated for 16 years for a crime he did not commit. We will be Discussing How Wrongful Convictions Happen and What you can do to Help Terrell.

Terrell Johnson’s new trial–16 years later–will finally begin on Monday, February 28th.

Join HRC’s Justice for Terrell Campaign as we hold a rally and press conference outside the Allegheny County Courthouse that Monday at 8am.

More details later in the week…
Call 412-654-9070 to help us pack the courthouse steps and the courtroom!

PA Prison Reports Jan-Feb 4th 2011 by the Human Rights Coalition

This is the PA Prison Report for Friday January 14th, brought to you by the Human Rights Coalition: Fighting for the Rights and Lives of Prisoners. HRC is a group of current and former prisoners, family members, and supporters, whose ultimate goal is to abolish prisons.

The News from Inside

SCI Mahanoy
An anonymous prisoner in the Restricted Housing Unit at SCI Mahanoy reports that another man incarcerated in the unit who suffers from seizures, is in serious danger due to the negligence of unit staff.

According to the report, on December 18 around 9:30 pm, 29-year old prisoner Jeffery Burton had a seizure and fell, injuring his head. Neighboring prisoners took notice, and when their calls for help got no response from guards in the unit’s control bubble, the prisoners began pushing their intercom buttons. This only resulted in officer Dorango turning off the intercoms as officers Ungurian, Barry and Guzenski, as well as Sergeant Banks and Lt. Hart, looked on. Many prisoners began kicking their doors and yelling for help as the prison staff looked out of the control bubble, smiling. Only at the 10pm change of shift, when officer Ungurian came on the block to retrieve his coat, did he respond to concerned prisoners who insisted that Ungurian check on Burton.  Over a half hour after the initial seizure, Burton was taken to medical with his head still bleeding.

Mr. Burton suffered another seizure on January 4 and was seen by a nurse who denied him access to the medical department while telling a guard to make sure that Mr. Burton took his medication. During the previous week, when faced with another prisoner who was bleeding from the anus and who had returned from a shower to his cell with blood and feces running down his leg, the same nurse refused to give treatment and insisted that the man wait for “sick call”. The nurse would not give her name to inquiring prisoners.

SCI Huntingdon

The Human Rights Coalition-Fed Up! has received reports that Andre Jacobs, a Pennsylvania state prisoner in solitary confinement, has been physically abused, issued death threats, denied medical treatment, called racial slurs, and had his legal property illegally withheld and confiscated by prison staff at SCI Huntingdon in the past weeks. (watch YouTube video)
On January 3, 2011, prison guard Cook yelled out to prisoners on the solitary confinement unit, “You niggers are always complaining, we’re about to turn it up!” He then told Andre, “We already know you file paperwork, file a grievance and you’ll die here!”
On January 4, 2011, prison guard Cook told Andre, “We got a shitload of your legal mail out there. Either you sign an agreement to not try to sue about yesterday or you’re not getting it. That’s per Lt. Taylor and approved by Wakefield and Eckard [ranking staff].” After other prisoners spoke out, Andre was given some—but not all—of his legal mail.
On January 6, 2011, guard Uzenski made obscene comments when conducting a visual strip-search prior to escorting Mr. Jacobs to a physical. When Andre requested to see a ranking officer, Uzenski grabbed his arm, which was still in the door slot, and the other guard present slammed his arm in the slot, causing an abrasion. Uzenski said, “You got a problem with me looking at your f***ing c**k?! I’ll break you f***ing neck, nigger!” Mr. Jacobs was deprived a physical examination as a consequence, which he has been waiting on for 3 years.
In 2008, Mr. Jacobs was awarded $185,000 in a lawsuit against the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) in which he represented himself. Andre has been held in solitary confinement since 2001, when he filed his first lawsuit at age 19. He is now 28 years old.
Since that victory he has been transferred to three different prisons, repeatedly assaulted, attacked with electro-shock and chemical weaponry, strapped to the “restraint chair” for 18 hours at a time, held naked in a cell without property for 7 days on multiple occasions, deprived of food and water, and subject to other human rights violations. Andre has also been issued dozens of fabricated misconducts in order to keep him buried alive in solitary confinement. 
The PA DOC chain of command has been made aware of these criminal violations on multiple occasions and have taken no action to hold perpetrators accountable.
Andre has recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania over these acts of torture, naming more than 100 DOC and state law enforcement agents as defendants.
also at Huntingdon..
Another prisoner held in solitary confinement at SCI Huntingdon reports that guards regularly deprive people of their meals. When this prisoner filed a grievance on the matter, he reports he was issued a fabricated misconduct that alleged he cursed at a staff member. This prisoner is a diabetic, and was initially sentenced to 30 days of solitary confinement after receiving a misconduct for cutting in line to receive his insulin on a day when his sugar level was high. On another occasion, his cell was searched and an empty milk carton was found. For this minor infraction of prison rules, guards withheld his next nine meals and instead served him a “food loaf”. The food loaf is used by prisons as a punishment, often served half frozen and universally described as inedible.
SCI Rockview
Two men held in the solitary confinement unit at SCI Rockview report that a mentally ill prisoner is being tortured by staff. The prisoner was accused of attacking a psychologist with a pen three months ago, and has since been held in solitary confinement since. Both prisoners stated that the mentally ill man has been frequently deprived clothes, bedding, food, yard, showers, and other basic necessities, including mental health treatment. Superintendent Lamas and the Program Review Committee have remained indifferent despite being informed of the situation.
SCI Forest
A supporter of the Human Rights Coalition and frequent reporter of human rights violations at SCI Forest recently reported an attack by guards against a prisoner named Carlos Taylor on December 18. The attack came about when Mr. Taylor began to question staff from the security department who were confiscating his commissary, one of the guards began to hit him in the head and face, and other officers came on the housing unit and began kicking and beating him. There has been no further word on Mr. Taylor’s condition.

 News from the Nation

Letters continue to come to HRC from prisoners from across the country, signing on to a Statement of Solidarity written by HRC to show support for Georgia prisoners who recently enacted a general strike that involved at least six state prisons. The multi-racial strike was the largest in U.S. history and brought public attention to the abuse and neglect of prisoners in Georgia and nationwide. As of this report, over 3200 people have signed the statement of solidarity, including hundreds of prisoners.

This is the PA Prison Report for Friday January 28th, brought to you by the Human Rights Coalition: Fighting for the Rights and Lives of Prisoners. HRC is a group of current and former prisoners, family members, and supporters, whose ultimate goal is to abolish prisons.

The News from Inside

SCI Fayette

A prisoner in the Restricted Housing Unit at SCI-Fayette wrote to HRC last week to report a round of cell searches in December that resulted in multiple assaults by guards upon him and other prisoners.

Michael Edwards reports that a week before the December 17th assaults, he was warned by both his counselor and a Major in the prison to stop writing to the Human Rights Coalition, to Philadelphia-based PA House Representative Kenyatta Johnson, and to United States Attorney for PA Western District, David Hickton. A week later, during a round of cell searches, Mr. Edwards’ letters to all of the above were discovered and taken by guards, and he and others were assaulted. During the assault, he was repeatedly shocked with electroshock weapons. As of January 17th, Mr. Edwards was still spitting up blood, had blood in his urine, and had not received medical treatment, a full month after the assaults.

SCI Coal Township

Reuben Henry reports from the Restricted Housing Unit at SCI Coal Township that on January 20th after an altercation with his Unit Manager, he was handcuffed and then severely beaten by a group of guards. During the beating, guards struck him in the head repeatedly causing injury to his head and jaw. Officers under the orders of Deputy McMillian then stripped Mr. Henry naked and placed him in a restraint chair, where he was held for the next eight hours where he was forced to urinate on himself. He was then wheeled, still naked and covered in waste to an observation cell, which prisoners call the “hard cell” due to the lack of any furniture, clothing, or bedding. As of January 23, Mr. Henry had still not received a shower or medical treatment, and he reports that guards are threatening his life.

SCI Greene

A prisoner at SCI Greene who was held in the Restricted Housing Unit from October to December of last year has written HRC to report on conditions there in Greene’s RHU. The prisoner, Larry Rush, writes:  ..although I am no longer in the RHU , I would be remiss if I did not seek out the help of those (such as the HRC) who are in the position to shed light on the inhuman treatment that is taking place here at SCI-Greene, especially over on H-Block/B-Pod, such as:

1. Prisoners not allowed to go to the yard for their hour of exercise, as well as prisoners ‘burned’ for  yard.
2. Guards ‘burning’ prisoners out of their trays of food, in order to have trays of food to sell to other inmates for their showers. This is done so the guards will have very little to do during their shift.
3. Discarding prisoners’ mail, going and coming
4. Stealing prisoners’ property and giving it to other inmates
5. Guards taking prisoners’ food out of their daily kosher food bag
6. Prisoners unable to buy sufficient writing material while in the RHU
7. Housing mentally ill prisoners in the RHU when they should be placed in a mental health unit.

SCI Huntingdon

Jailhouse lawyer Andre Jacobs reports from the Restricted Housing Unit at SCI-Huntingdon that he has again been assaulted by staff and is currently being deprived of bedding, toiletries, and his legal property. Mr. Jacobs, who won $185,000 in a 2008 lawsuit against the PA Department of Corrections, has since been repeatedly targeted for retaliation by staff in numerous PA state prisons.

Mr. Jacobs reports that on January 15, after again receiving his kosher meal with items missing, he notified staff, who took no action. At 11am, Mr. Jacobs, along with 4 other nearby prisoners who have witnessed the repeated harassment and retaliation against him by Huntingdon RHU staff, covered their cell windows in order to “enforce the chain of command” and bring ranking prison staff to the block to address the situation.

The windows stayed covered until 2pm, when Officer Redfern, Lt. Dunkle, Lt. Henry and Nurse Sheila at various times visited Mr. Jacobs’ cell door and threatened that if he didn’t remove the covering, he would be attacked with pepper-spray and cell extracted. Mr. Jacobs refused to uncover the window or leave the cell. He was then assaulted with pepper spray and taken from the cell by a group of guards. During the attack, officers punched him several times in the jaw, twisted his ankle, and banged his head into the wall.

After the assault, Mr. Jacobs was taken to a strip cage, where guards sexually fondled him in the process of cutting off his clothing. He is now being held without bedding, toiletries or his legal property in a windowless cell. He writes that on January 18, Lt. Taylor stated to him, “We had this planned for you before you even got here. One more move in this game of chess and you’re dead- you’ll never see that $185,000”.

Green Rock Correctional Center, Chatham VA

One of the roughly 1000 Pennsylvania prisoners on out-of-state transfer to Virginia has written to HRC from Green Rock Correctional Center to report what could have been a preventable assault upon another prisoner.

According to the report, late last year David Cantini was ordered to share a cell with a prisoner known to be “very violent” and a threat to others. All of Mr. Cantini’s requests to be transferred to another cell were ignored by Green Rock administration, despite the offers of other prisoners to share a cell with him and despite numerous pleas made by Mr. Cantini and others to guards, the administration, and Mr. Cantini’s counselor.

As feared, Mr. Cantini was in fact assaulted by his cellmate, who broke his jaw in two places. He now has a plate and screws in his jaw and was on a liquid diet, in excruciating pain, for months. The reporting prisoner stresses that in this instance, the blame lies not with the guards but with the administrative
staff of Green Rock prison.

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This is the PA Prison Report for Friday February 4th, brought to you by the Human Rights Coalition: Fighting for the Rights and Lives of Prisoners. HRC is a group of current and former prisoners, family members, and supporters, whose ultimate goal is to abolish prisons.

The News from Inside

SCI Albion: In late January, several prisoners in the solitary confinement unit at SCI Albion wrote to HRC reporting that ten men had begun a hunger strike in protest of their conditions of confinement. The main grievances identified were the lack of heat in the cells and inadequate food portions. Several prisoners stated that the heat had not been working for the past week, and that this has happened multiple times before. Other grievances included guards depriving them of recreation, failure to provide clean clothes and hygiene materials on a regular basis, racial discrimination, and guard harassment.
The administration of SCI Albion has not responded to inquiries made by HRC into the situation. The phone number for SCI-Albion is (814) 756-5778. Ask to speak with Superintendent Harlow, and demand to know the state of the hunger strike and what actions the Superintendent is taking to address the treatment of the prisoners in his solitary confinement unit.
SCI Huntingdon: A prisoner at SCI Huntingdon who has asked to remain anonymous reported in an affidavit to HRC that on January 26, 2011, a prisoner in the solitary confinement unit cut his wrists after Lt. Taylor denied his request to see psych staff. Guards responded to the suicide attempt by attacking the individual with pepper spray, removing him from the cell, and placing him in an “anti-suicide smock,” which is a gown that is designed so that it cannot be tied into a noose. Even after the suicide attempt, no mental health treatment was provided.
The affidavit states that this individual has had an extremely adverse reaction to solitary confinement, and that he has a tendency to tear his bunk, toilet, and other items apart. He says that he acts this way because “the cells are too small” and he “black[s] out.”
SCI Fayette:  Guards in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at SCI Fayette have been allowing inmate workers to taunt other prisoners, spit in their food trays, and destroy their mail, according to a report just sent in from the notorious solitary confinement unit.
Christopher Balmer, who has spent at least the last several months in the unit, reports in a signed declaration that guards have participated in the abuse by delivering the contaminated trays with full knowledge of their condition. He reports further that he has notified SMU personnel, his counselor, and the prison administration of the situation to no avail. The individuals notified include: Unit Manager Carl Walker, Officers Eicher and Gibson, SMU Lieutenant Clark, counselor Stephan Buzas, and Fayette Superintendent Brian Coleman.
The PA Dept. of Corrections claims that the Special Management Units at SCI’s Fayette and Camp Hill are intended to provide an environment in which prisoners who have spent extended periods of time in solitary confinement can, through a program of increasing privileges earned through good behavior, prepare for life in general population. According to dozens of reports received by HRC, however, the units instead serve as torture chambers in which prisoners only advance in the program by withstanding, without complaint, daily abuse by guards who have been given a “license to torture” by prison administrators who look the other way.
Prison Guards Fearful of Exposure: In a letter from one of the state prisons featured in past editions of the PA Prison Report, a solitary confinement prisoner reports overhearing a guard who has been named as by HRC as a participant in acts of abuse. The guard was reportedly nervous about the reports, and denied all the allegations. This is one of many similar letters received by HRC over recent years describing anxiety amongst prison staff whose mistreatment of prisoners has been exposed to the public by HRC.
New PA DOC Secretary: Gov. Tom Corbett nominated John E. Wetzel as secretary of the Department of Corrections on December 17, 2010.  He will serve in an acting capacity until confirmed by the state Senate.
Wetzel began his corrections career in 1989 as an officer at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility.  In 1992, he transferred to the Berks County Prison, where he rose through the ranks, serving as treatment counselor, supervisor of treatment services and training academy director.  In 2002, he was named warden of the Franklin County Jail.
He was appointed as the corrections expert to the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons in June 2007, a position he continues to hold.  Since 2006, he has been a corrections consultant in the areas of operational and staffing analysis and vulnerability assessments. 
Additionally, the DOC website reports that he has been part of several efforts which have reduced jail population.  These include developing a jail industries program through a community wide advisory board to increase the job readiness of offenders; initiating the first, jail-based CareerLink access point in the state of Pennsylvania; developing a day reporting center which reduced the jail population by more than 205. 
He lives in Chambersburg with this wife, Theresa, and their four daughters.

Courtroom Update

Justice for Terrell campaign
In 1994, Pittsburgh resident Terrell Johnson was convicted and given a life sentence for the murder of Verna Robinson. After newly-discovered evidence came to light proving that the prosecution’s sole witness against Terrell was lying, he was awarded a new trial. The trial, which was scheduled for February 7th, was postponed for the fifth time in order to accommodate the judge, who will be vacationing in Aruba. Jury selection is now scheduled for Friday, February 25th, and the trial is set to begin on Monday, February 28th. For more information on Terrell’s case and HRC’s efforts to support him and his family in their fight, visit: http://justiceforterrell.blogspot.com/

Announcements
Wednesdays: Write On! Prison Letter Writing Night at the LAVA space at 4134 Lancaster, 6-9pm. 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, call us at 215-921-3491, email info@hrcoalition.org, or visit our website at http://www.hrcoalition.org./

Human rights defender and jailhouse lawyer under attack


From: Human Rights Coalition/FedUp:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                            January 10, 2011
Contact: Bret Grote, HRC-Investigator –  hrcfeup@gmail.com        412.654.9070
The Human Rights Coalition-Fed Up! has received 4 affidavits stating that Andre Jacobs, a Pennsylvania state prisoner in solitary confinement, has been physically abused, issued death threats, denied medical treatment, called racial slurs, and had his legal property illegally withheld and confiscated by prison staff at SCI Huntingdon in the past week.
On January 3, 2011, prison guard Cook yelled out to prisoners on the solitary confinement unit, “You niggers are always complaining, we’re about to turn it up!” He then told Andre, “We already know you file paperwork, file a grievance and you’ll die here!”
On January 4, 2011, prison guard Cook told Andre, “We got a shitload of your legal mail out there. Either you sign an agreement to not try to sue about yesterday or you’re not getting it. That’s per Lt. Taylor and approved by Wakefield and Eckard [ranking staff].” After other prisoners spoke out, Andre was given some-but not all-of his legal mail.
On January 6, 2011, guard Uzenski made obscene comments when conducting a visual strip-search prior to escorting Mr. Jacobs to a physical. When Andre requested to see a Lt., Uzenski grabbed his arm, which was still in the door slot, and the other guard present slammed his arm in the slot, causing an abrasion. Uzenski said, “You got a problem with me looking at your f***ing c**k?! I’ll break you f***ing neck, nigger!” Mr. Jacobs was deprived a physical examination as a consequence, which he has been waiting on for 3 years.
In 2008, Mr. Jacobs was awarded $185,000 in a lawsuit against the PA Department of Corrections (DOC) in which he represented himself. Andre has been held in solitary confinement since 2001, when he filed his first lawsuit at age 19. He is now 28 years old.
Since that victory he has been transferred to three different prisons, repeatedly assaulted, attacked with electro-shock and chemical weaponry, strapped to the “restraint chair” for 18 hours at a time, held naked in a cell without property for 7 days on multiple occasions, deprived of food and water, and subject to other human rights violations. Andre has also been issued dozens of fabricated misconducts in order to keep him buried alive in solitary confinement.
The PA DOC has been made aware of these criminal violations on multiple occasions and have taken no action to hold perpetrators accountable.
Andre has recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit in the Middle District of Pennsylvania over these acts of torture, naming more than 100 DOC and state law enforcement agents as defendants.
Acting Secretary Shirley Moore-Smeal, the first African-American woman to head the DOC, along with SCI Huntingdon Superintendent have been made aware of these human rights violations.

Human Rights Coalition-Pittsburgh

FedUp! Chapter
hrcfedup@gmail.com

http://hrcoalition.org