Trapped: The Story of the Mentally Ill in Prison

This is an article from: Slate, April 1st 2013, By David Rosenberg

When photographer Jenn Ackerman spent her first day at the Kentucky State Reformatory for what would become the series “Trapped,” she knew she had no choice but to photograph the images in black-and-white.

“When I went on the tour (of the prison), I didn’t see it in color; when I came back, I was trying to remember what it looked like, and I couldn’t remember any of the colors at all. I knew there was something so gritty and raw,” Ackerman recalled.
“My intention was to make the viewer feel what I felt when I was inside the prison.”
Here is an article about this project, in: World of Psychology
Photos of Mental Illness from a Kentucky Prison, By John  M. Grohol, PSYD
Jenn Ackerman has taken some fantastic black-and-white photography in a Kentucky prison. The photos depict the raw life of prisoners who are also dealing with mental illness. Because as the government has repeatedly cut back on funding mental health treatment, guess where the really sick people go?

They end up in prison, usually for repeated petty crimes or drug abuse. And society, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that spending 4x to 5x the cost of keeping the person in prison is “better” than simply getting them into a drug abuse treatment program.

Read the rest here:

Rickie Williams named Deputy Warden of Programs at GRCC

CENTRAL CITY, Ky. — The Kentucky Department of Corrections has named Rickie Williams Deputy Warden of Programs at the Green River Correctional Complex (GRCC) in Central City, Ky. He officially assumed the post on Aug. 1.

“Rickie Williams is a valuable corrections professional with nearly 20 years experience,” said Corrections Deputy Commissioner Al Parke. “He has a wealth of knowledge and will be a real asset to the Green River Correctional Complex.”

Williams began his career at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in 1991. He transferred to Green River in 1995 where he was promoted to sergeant. He was again promoted to Correctional Unit Administrator I in 1999 and became a hostage negotiator that same year. In 2003, Williams was promoted to the position of Correctional Unit Administrator II. He is currently serving as the Western Region Negotiations Team Leader.

Williams is native of Muhlenberg County where he currently resides with his wife Beverly

Inmates adjust to new Ky. prison after sex scandal

Life was just fine for Tina Quarels at the Otter Creek women’s prison in eastern Kentucky — rules were relaxed, she didn’t have to work and the staff was familiar.

“It was more like a family setting,” said Quarels, who is serving 20 years for murder and arson in Jefferson County.

That setting came to an end at the Otter Creek Correctional Complex after a sex scandal involving prisoners and guards at the Corrections Corporation of America-owned prison, which pushed the state to relocate hundreds of female inmates 377 miles away to the state-run Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia.

At first, it seemed all that needed to be done were things like swapping out urinals with toilets and retrofitting showers to accommodate women. However, it’s turned into a more complex and stressful adjustment. The complex is a prison farm — and now that women are the ones working, inmates and officials are having to adapt to new rules and a new reality.

“It’s been an experience,” said 36-year-old Tracy Arthur of Ashland, who is serving seven years for manslaughter and works on the prison farm. “Those of us who had been at Otter Creek for a while, we didn’t do much. Therefore we had to learn to get up and move a lot more.”

Kentucky ordered female inmates moved from Otter Creek in January after news of the scandal, which included widespread allegations that several of the mostly male corrections officers had sex with inmates. Some were charged criminally.

Western Kentucky Correctional Complex budgeted about $590,000 for renovations, with work continuing in some areas through the summer. The early work consisted, in large part, of plumbing changes and trying to hire more female corrections officers. Officials wanted more than half the staff to be women.

The first female inmates arrived in April. A group of about 200 male inmates were still housed in minimum security outside the razor-wire fencing of the main prison complex until June.

Corn, soybeans and hay are grown on the 2,450-acre prison grounds in part to feed about 200 cattle kept there. Inmates grew 70,000 bushels of corn in 2009, using 10,000 to 15,000 bushels to feed the cattle, Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said. The rest sold at market for about $3 a bushel, putting about $30,000 profit into the state’s general fund.

Lamb said the inmates were moved to Western Kentucky Correctional Complex, even though it had no history of housing women, because of its size. There wasn’t enough space for them at local jails or the other all-female prison in the state, Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women near Louisville.

The western Kentucky prison stands in stark contrast to Otter Creek, which sits on the side of a mountain, with no farming, limited recreational space and almost no views from the yard.

“We just have a lot of room, a lot of room to breathe,” said 39-year-old Stephanie Spitser, who is serving life in prison for murder and kidnapping.

But the open space came with restrictions the inmates weren’t used to — regular head counts, strict uniform regulations and mandates that inmates show up for work on the farm. Quarels said the inmates call it “boot camp.”

And there are small differences — the women don’t get the deodorant and shampoo they had before and don’t have a hair stylist — that are disheartening to some inmates.

Full Story Here

Ky. Pulls Inmates Out of Privately Run Prison

It’s always a good day when CCA loses business, isn’t it? Now, if we can convince Vermont lawmakers that cost and recidivism rates would be both lower if they house prisoners in state facilities, it would be yet another step forward!


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky has pulled out of a privately run prison in the eastern part of the state because of what state officials describe as budget concerns, leaving only out-of-state inmates at the facility.

The last Kentucky inmates at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville left the facility June 14, said Lisa Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Corrections.

The prison, owned and operated by Nashville, Tenn.-based Corrections Corp. of America, also houses about 560 inmates on contract for Vermont, which uses out-of-state prisons to alleviate overcrowding.

The decision to remove inmates from the Beattyville prison saves Kentucky $43.62 per inmate per day — about $23,500 a day when Kentucky’s inmate population at the prison was at its peak of just over 540 inmates.

Kentucky Court Blocks Unconstitutional Prosecutions of Pregnant Women

Jun 17th, 2010
Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, Reproductive Freedom Project ACLU

Today, in the case Cochran v. Commonwealth, the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed that a pregnant woman cannot be thrown in jail for no other reason than that she struggles with a substance abuse problem. (Together with the ACLU of Kentucky, the ACLU submitted an amicus brief in the case). We are thrilled with the decision, of course — it is a huge victory not only for Ina Cochran, who has been fighting this case for four years, but for the other women currently facing similar prosecutions throughout the state.

In its decision, the court recognized that prosecuting a woman who struggles with addiction has several consequences — all of which undermine the health of moms and babies. Medical organizations are nearly unanimous in opposing these sorts of prosecutions because they drive women away from the very people who can help them.

The court left no doubt that, not only do these prosecutions make for bad public health policy, they also make for bad law. If a pregnant woman can be charged with a crime for potentially harming her fetus, then literally everything she does or does not do — including choosing to have a baby despite an underlying health condition — could land her in jail. What if a pregnant woman has a glass of wine with dinner now and then, or lives with a smoker; what if she drives over the speed limit, fails to get regular pre-natal care, or works in a coal mine, as many women in Kentucky do?

As the ACLU made clear in its brief, allowing the government to exercise such unlimited control over women’s bodies, and every aspect of their lives, would essentially reduce pregnant women to second-class citizens, denying them the basic constitutional rights enjoyed by the rest of us.

Today, Ms. Cochran’s long legal battle has come to an end. There should no longer be any question: Ms. Cochran never should have been charged. The women whose similar prosecutions are still pending never should have been charged either. Let’s hope — for the sake of all women in Kentucky — that the prosecutors get the message.

Link to article Here

Kentucky prison hospice program lets inmates help others, selves

June 14, 2010, from the Courier Journal:

Steffon Cantrell had been sitting with the dying man for six hours. Occasionally he would rub the man’s head, or take his hands, or sing a hymn — anything to remind the man he was not alone.

Cantrell, an inmate at the Kentucky State Reformatory, had only known this fellow prisoner since the beginning of his bedside shift. But like a caring family member, he would stay, watching over until the man took his last breath.

Cantrell is one of eight inmates at the prison in LaGrange who volunteer as hospice workers for ill and dying prisoners.

The volunteers’ backgrounds are varied, but they are linked by similarities. Most are serving time for murder. Some are unsure whether they will ever leave prison. And all view their caretaking roles as a way to atone for the lives they once led.

“I know how it is to be alone,” Cantrell said. “For me to be there for somebody who’s about to pass away, just to let them know that they’re not alone and that I’m there — that’s priceless for me.”

The Kentucky State Reformatory is the only prison in the state to have a hospice program, and one of the few in the country, said Robin Sublett, chief psychologist at the prison and manager of the program, which began in 1996.

“I’ve found it to be one of the most significant things we do around here,” Sublett said.

The volunteers, trained by Hosparus, a Louisville-based non-profit that provides hospice care around the region, are charged primarily with serving other prisoners at the end of their lives. But the volunteers benefit as well.

“It helps them to be a better human being,” Sublett said. “We can teach them anger control, we can teach them how they’re supposed to act in public, how to get a job, but until you teach somebody to have empathy both to themselves and somebody else, you’re really just touching the surface.”

The need for such volunteers is great at the medium-security prison, which holds about 2,000 inmates and is home to the state’s seriously ill prison population. Just as medical needs are increasing for aging baby boomers across the country, the same is true in prison.

Read full article here

Governor Beshear Signs Custodial Misconduct Bill

17 April 2010

HOPKINS COUNTY, KY – Governor Steve Beshear ceremonially signed Senate Bill 17 into law on Thursday April 15, strengthening the penalty for sexual contact between correctional staff and inmates from a misdemeanor to a felony offense.

“The inherent power disparity between correctional officers and inmates precludes there from ever being a consensual sexual relationship between the two,” Gov. Beshear said. “This legislation offers greater protection for inmates in our custody, and helps eliminate circumstances that can create security risks in our prisons.”

Gov. Beshear noted that, in addition to the potential for abuse, sexual relationships in prison can create a hostile work environment; corrupt staff members; lead to the introduction of contraband; create mistrust and expose the state and staff to civil and criminal liability.

“I’ve been working on this issue for over a year,” said Sen. Julie Denton, of Louisville, sponsor of SB 17. “This legislation is a proactive attempt to provide more deterrence against prison employees taking advantage of our prison inmates.”

Gov. Beshear said allegations of sexual contact between inmates and staff at Otter Creek Correctional Complex, a privately owned prison that is currently under state contract to house female inmates, underscores the need for such a law. The new law will serve as a critical deterrent and will allow for effective prosecution and punishment for such action, he said.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said the legislation has the strong support of the Kentucky Department of Corrections and correctional staff and officers, who have pushed the measure for the past five years.

“No one is more proud to have this law on the books than the men and women who work in our prisons,” Sec. Brown said. “Abuse of power of this nature severely undermines the safety of our inmates, the decency of our institutions, and the professionalism of our staff.”

Information provided to iSurf by Governor Steve Beshear’s Communications Office.
Posted by Karen Klay Orange – iSurf News

Link to Article Here

Former woman prisoner files rape suit against CCA guard & CCA

Former inmate alleges rape at private prison

By Stephenie Steitzer February 25, 2010
Louisville Courier Journal

A former inmate at the beleaguered private women’s prison in Eastern Kentucky has filed a lawsuit alleging that she was repeatedly raped by a prison employee in 2007.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Pikeville, alleges that the employee at the Otter Creek Correctional Center forced her to engage in non-consensual sexual acts between March and October 2007 and threatened to block her parole if she reported him to authorities.

The alleged victim also names Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America, which operates the prison under contract with the state, and the Department of Corrections as defendants. It alleges that they failed to properly screen, train and supervise the employee.

CCA spokesman Steve Owen said in an e-mail Thursday that the employee was terminated last March.

Owen said CCA has not yet received a copy of the lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday, and could not comment further at this time.

Department of Corrections Commission LaDonna Thompson said Thursday that she had not yet seen the suit and could not comment.

It could not be determined whether the employee is facing criminal charges relating to the allegations.

A Kentucky State Police spokesman familiar with cases against former Otter Creek workers could not be reached for comment Thursday.

At least six workers at Otter Creek have been charged with sex-related crimes involving inmates at the facility.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced last month that the state will move more than 400 women prisoners out of Otter Creek given the allegations of sexual misconduct by male workers there.

The women prisoners will be transferred to the state-run Western Kentucky Correctional Complex in Fredonia this summer, and the nearly 700 male inmates now there will be moved to Otter Creek, which has more than 650 beds, and other prisons in the state.

CCA has been under fire since last summer after multiple inmates at Otter Creek made allegations that they were sexually assaulted by corrections officers and other workers there.

A Department of Corrections investigation found that prison authorities failed to investigate seven alleged incidents of sexual contact between workers and inmates since 2007. In four of those cases, the workers involved were fired.

But investigations required under the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act were not conducted.

The suit filed this week states that the alleged victim originally denied that she had been raped because “she was so afraid of (the employee’s) threats regarding her parole.”

It says she told investigators last July that the incidents had occurred.

The suit says that the alleged victim was released on parole in September 2008 under the condition that she remain free of any parole violations for six years.

She seeks damages, including punitive damages, in an amount to be determined by a jury, according to the lawsuit.

Her attorney, William Butler Jr. of Louisville, did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.