It seems like those trying to manage the High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs are getting their way in turning it into another locked down prison. They use racial tensions and riots as an excuse to do what they always wanted to do, and turn it into a permanently locked down prison. They never wanted to change anything for the better for those locked up with no incentives, no programs, no reform, nothing to look forward to, mere eternal boredness. Those in charge, paid for by us all, never did want to correct these men. They did not want to reform these men. They did not call upon their bosses to make it possible that men never return to prison. And if they did, we did not hear it. We received the following to illustrate this:
As a former NDOC caseworker at HDSP and ESP, I can tell you there has been a plan for many years to make part of HDSP a maximum security prison (along with a Condemned Men’s Unit and new Death Chamber). Much of the plan precedes the current NDOC Director Howard Skolnik. I was in a meeting several years ago at HDSP when Glen Whorton discussed this idea. The plans are now part of the public record although Director Skolnik would deny that these plans are still in play.
If Ely State Prison becomes privatized (a possibility with Governor Sandoval elected), the plans to make HDSP the max could still be implemented as a cost savings measure.
The latest “uprisings” give NDOC officials the rationalization to increase security levels in preparation for the transition to maximum security. Remember that Warden Neven was the Associate Warden of Operations before taking the warden’s position at HDSP so he will use many of the same techniques used at Ely.
This comment sent to NPW by Mr Shaulis is illustrated by the following update written on 19 November 2010, by Mr James Wardell who is incarcerated in High Desert State Prison:
“They have now instituted a Level 4 Status Per Memo from warden Dwight Neven.
All of the men in units 5 A/B and 5 C/D were moved to units 7 A/B and 7 C/D, that is now the level 4 quad. Unit 8 A/B and 8 C/D will also become level 4 as the influx of peopel fill up the beds.
That quad was closed down last year due to staff shortage. But it has been reopened now because of all the racial tensions.
Warden Neven is trying to turn H.D.S.P. into another Ely, at least that´s what all the guards are saying.”
Ely State Prison is a place of death, stagnation, misery, pain, loneliness and indeterminate lockdown. If you were to take a walk on one of these depressing tiers back here in “the hole”, you would hear many disembodied voices ring out, yelling in anger and frustration, trying to tell you how bad it is for us in here, in between the isolated confines of steel and stone.
We are getting short notes from High Desert State Prison, Indian Springs, NV, that there have been riots and/or attempts of uprisings over the last few weeks. On 13th of October 2010, according to a letter received by NPW from someone inside HDSP:
“They fired 7 live rounds to stop another uprising in units 5 C/D Level3. They have now turned (unit) 5 A/B and 5 C/D into level 4 status, and the conditions are as such or worse than the “hole”: showers every 3 days, no yard, no tier time, no phone.
The food and living conditions are beyond belief.
The Administration should realize that you have to give men education, work, or some form of activity in order to help them learn to be productive. But the wardens and staff here don´t care about that. We are nothing more than a stocks quote or head count. Humans have become a commodity now, we´re treated just like live stock.”
From a letter dated 10-18-2010 from a prisoner in High Desert State Prison, Indian Springs, Nevada.
I am an inmate at Ely State Prison (ESP) and have been for the last 9 years. I wanted to write and inform you about some of the horror show that is Ely State Prison. You can´t imagine the utter and absolute horror show this prison really is on the inside.
Here is an example from about 6 to 8 weeks ago. Officers went to a lock down unit to get a hot pot from an inmate. He refused to give it to them (this was on a Saturday: no wardens). So they extracted him. When other inmates began to yell at the officers for their extraction method, the number of officers grew and they did 6 to 8 more unnecessary extractions that sent 4 or 5 inmates out of the prison to the hospital in town to get treatment for their injuries. The lieutenant (Minik or Minnick) from that shift was fired about a week or so later. The shift sergeant from that shift (Bryant) was also the squad sergeant in charge of the Redman extraction that resulted in his death.
People in here die on a fairly regular basis. About three months ago a guy in unit 5 was beaten so bad over the course of 3 days by his cellie that he needed to be life-flighted out of here.
I have lived in general population and held a job in here for the last 8 ½ years. As I´m sure you know unit 8 is the only open unit in the prison and it is where the “workers” live. At one time, about two months ago there were about 140 workers. The administration is now in the process of getting that number down to 94 and housing all of us on one wing of unit 8 and locking down the other half.
Now I´m not sure if you know how this prison was designed, but to really understand, I´ll quickly explain. There are 8 units here, 4 units are considered general population, they are on one side of the prison; units 5, 6, 7 and 8. They each have an A and a B wing with 48 cells, 24 downstairs and 24 right above upstairs. Each wing was designed to house 48 people. Long ago, they put a second bunk in the 3 thru 24 cells (cells 1 and 2 are medical singles) that brought the number of inmates to 72 a unit.
About 3 ½ years ago they put second bunks in cells 25 thru 48, now they cram 94 inmates into a unit. In the lock down units it makes it loud and the stale air is brutal as well as the heat. In unit 8 as in the other units there are only 4 showers, 2 telephones and tables for 48 people to sit. Plus on the wall in the unit along with “no smoking” it says “Maximum occupancy 90,” which was probably put there by the Fire Marshall, but I´m sure the zero will be painted over and made into a four. That´s how they do things inside here. To start this process of getting down to 94 workers they have changed the times we are allowed out of our cells… well they actually took time away from us. See the pages I enclosed.
Here is another example. Some time ago an inmate sued the prison (ESP), because it was not handicap-accessible. After he won and the prison got some grant money to fix some things, they took the non-handicap accessible urinal off the “main yard.” So now there is no urinal on the yard. The officers here now look the other way while people urinate in an outside drain by the trash compactor. They will not let people go into the gym or back into the unit and then back out again. So if you want to stay outside you basically have to break the law.
Here is another policy that was started because people here and also at High Desert (HDSP) started refusing to live with someone in a lock down situation that has no end, for the main reason that it becomes very dangerous. They force you to live with people, especially here at ESP, in a small cell where you never have any time to yourself. They don´t tell you if the other person has HIV, Hep C or mental problems. The number of cell fights they have here at Ely is unreal. And until both inmates come to the door and get handcuffed, the officers will not enter a cell. So you could be getting your head split open and all they will do is gas the cell with pepper spray. And when under normal conditions if one person or both are leaving the cell, both people have to get handcuffed first. Well, on a regular basis one person will wait until his cellie gets cuffed first, then attack, because they know the officers won´t come into the cell until he cuffs up also. It makes for a very dangerous situation.
So in response people were refusing to cell with another person in a lock down situation and would go to the hole. Well since so many people were doing this, they changed the rules so that now you get none of your appliances for the first 60 days in the hole, then you petition for 1 appliance, and then 1 more, in another 60 days. Yet they can take them if you break any rules. If they don´t like you, you´ll never have your appliances.
Like I´ve said, you can´t imagine the horror show ESP really is on the inside.
Received per mail on May 20th 2010
Article received on May 3rd 2010
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Greetings families and friends of those incarcerated within the NDOC, as well as to those who may not have loved ones residing in the NDOC but are prison advocates and/or concerned citizens. I am an inmate that has been imprisoned at Ely State Prison for the past 10 years. Throughout this tenure, I have experienced and witnessed the demise of education, programs, inmate health, humanity, and integrity. Unfortunately inmates’ morale has abated as well, while the prison guards´ sadist acts have risen.
ESP is operating as a de facto (illegitimate but in effect) Super Max facility. ESP was not designed to be double celled nor to operate as a super max, but for the past six years it has been and only has one worker unit. Inmates have become so accustomed to this lockdown living that most don’t exit their call for shower or yard time. Now, during the Spring and Summer (warmer seasons) more inmates go to the outside miniature recreation yard but because only one cell per hour is allowed on this yard, not everyone can receive yard time daily during day light hours. We have no indoor out of the cell free time, meaning that during rain, snow and the freezing Ely weather you can either go outside or remain in your cell for 24 hours. I’m not on my soap box about prison living, per se (for there is another time for that) but I am bringing to your attention the repercussions of this 23/1 indefinite lockdown.
These Gestapo tactics have broken inmates down to debrief (lying about others and/or becoming prison informants which are used up by administration and discarded like a piece of gum after losing it’s flavor), they lose their social communication skills, develop paranoia, OCD, severe depression, lack of discipline, become obnoxious and lose touch with reality. These are the people (American citizens) who will be coming back to your communities.
What is the Nevada Department of Corrections correcting? Yes, ESP provides high school education via correspondence materials being delivered to an inmate’s cell where he does the assignments (if he can) but there is no classroom atmosphere and no teacher support. How much better would it be for inmates to get up in the morning, go to class, ask and discuss the assignments so to show an understanding and develop confidence? That sounds like a start to correction. ESP provides no post high school education; hence, if you already have a diploma you receive no education whatsoever. Inmates that are fortunate enough to pursue and obtain a college education and degree with their personal funds (via outside correspondence schools) receive no good time credits (as outlined per NRS 209.4465) nor recognition from the parole board. Instead they are considered a “non-programmer”. Inmates have no incentive to be good since good behavior is not lifting the lock down. Those inmates being rewarded are lying on other inmates.
Do Nevada tax payers know that they are paying a correctional officer’s salary of roughly $18/hour and up, to prepare and pass out food trays, sweep/mop the floor and clean the units? A job an inmate would do for free. ESP has been locked down for years but claims they need more staff. Did you know that more inmates have been killed and/or died since the lockdown AND more inmates have been assaulted by staff? I, a person of common intelligence, would believe that the objective to locking down a prison is to quell the problems, not to cause more. How much is enough?
You have probably read in the newspapers and/or know that the states have become dependent on prisons to provide employment and revenue to the counties and state. In addition to this, prisons contract other businesses to supply materials or provide services which turn a profit. Once prisons started turning a profit it became a business. A business solely exists to make money. I pay $16.90 to make a collect call to California for 15 minutes, 34 cents for a Top Ramen, $275 for a flat 13” screen TV, $6.80 for an 8oz bag of Keefe coffee and the list goes on. The state doesn’t provide inmates with deodorant, thermals, beanie, or gloves if they have money on their account. The inmate has to buy everything on canteen. Indigent inmates are not provided these items period. Those familiar with Ely know about the freezing weather months on end.
Correctional officers prepare the inmate trays on the unit failing to distribute adequate food proportions. 90% of our fruit is canned (we receive an occasional orange or an apple) and 75% of it is rotten! The most disturbing issue here is inmates giving up and accepting all of this. Guys are starting to take psychotropic medication and lay down in fear of losing their TV, canteen and phone privileges. I know you want your loved ones to not get into trouble and you worry for their safety. When a majority of these guys get released they are only going to want to lay around on the couch all day because that is all they know. What we need is your support. Inmates need to be encouraged to learn their prisoners rights, demand more educational programs, vocational training, fresh fruits and vegetables, affordable telephone rates and canteen, mental health and drug addiction resources, desegregating of inmates, better training of staff, programs to assist inmates upon release to name just a few.
You can help by contacting and/or petitioning to the Governor, Department of Corrections, Prison Commission and State Representatives. Inmates must do their part by filing grievances and stopping the knit-picking amongst themselves-that administration orchestrated in the first place. Please do not allow your loved ones morale to evaporate. Not only are they oppressed in prison but inmates´ families give up on them too and that is what the prison wants since it is designed to keep us from the public. DO NOT ALLOW THIS TO TAKE PLACE. Encourage your family and friends to keep in touch so that inmates can build and maintain relationships with their children, parents and spouses. Love is unconditional and your outside support is needed.
The recidivism rate is out of control and it is because of the failing prison system. America has the largest prison population in the world so it is evident that what they have been doing is not working. You pay taxes and are an American citizen, thus, you have the power to be heard and can bring about change. Let us on this inside and you on the outside unite our forces… for together we can achieve anything we set out to do!! Educate, support, and unite.
If you have coments about this article, you can email: email@example.com
April 14, 2010
by Jean Casella and James Ridgeway
Solitary confinement in U.S. prisons can take many forms–including the temporary lockdown of units, buildings, or entire prisons. These 24-hour lockdowns are routinely instituted in response to perceived threats to prison safety or authority. On occasion, they can extend to days, weeks, or even months, during which the prison is under a kind of martial law even more extreme than its normal conditions.
At Bayside State Prison in southern New Jersey, this kind of lockdown was instituted after the murder of a guard in 1997. It lasted more than a month, during which hundreds of Bayside prisoners say they were beaten and otherwise abused.
Their complaints languished for a decade. But last month, a retired judge, who was appointed by the federal courts to be a fact-finder in the case, determined that the New Jersey Department of Corrections is liable for their abuse. The decision by former U.S. District Chief Judge John W. Bissell, clears the way for inmates to sue the state.
A detailed report by Mike Newell in the Philadelphia Inquirer describes what took place at the prison in the summer of 1997.
Bayside, a medium-security prison with nearly 2,400 inmates in Cumberland County, was put on lockdown between July 30 and Sept. 3, 1997, after guard Fred Baker was stabbed in the back by an inmate with a makeshift knife.
Prisoners were confined to their cells, visitors were prohibited, and a Special Operations Group (SOG) consisting of 57 corrections officers from across New Jersey interrogated inmates and searched cells for weapons. The SOG officers dressed in riot gear, carried batons and mace, and did not wear name badges.
When the lockdown was lifted, inmates began to report stories of abuse to the Department of Corrections. More than three dozen inmates told The Inquirer in 1997 that they had been repeatedly beaten, dragged, forced to sit handcuffed in the prison gym for hours, threatened with dogs, and paraded through a gauntlet of SOG officers who beat them with nightsticks.
What happened next is an extreme version of a typical story–a series of half-hearted “investigations” and widespread coverups. As John Sullivan reported in the New York Times in 2003, in a long investigative article on the lockdown:
After the lockdown ended in September 1997, complaints of abuse began to leak from the prison. Newspapers reported the stories, and the Department of Corrections promised a thorough investigation.
The F.B.I. began to investigate after receiving written complaints from several inmates. But the investigator’s case file, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, showed that the agent handling the case made only one telephone call: to the internal affairs division’s office at Bayside State Prison. Over the phone, the file says, the agent learned that internal affairs planned to conduct its own investigation. Because internal affairs was already on the job, and because some inmates had hired lawyers, the agent concluded no further F.B.I. investigation was needed. The agent closed the case.
The F.B.I. file also noted that the United States attorney’s office in Newark had subpoenaed records about the lockdown, but the Justice Department said it closed the case in August 1999, for lack of evidence. Both the United States attorney and the F.B.I. declined to comment.
In the end, the investigation fell to the Department of Corrections’ internal affairs unit. Internal affairs investigators conducted hundreds of interviews and gave lie detector tests to several inmates. Some inmates passed those tests when they reported abuse by guards. But in nearly every case, investigators said they could not substantiate the charges against guards. Often, the investigators’ reports said cases boiled down to inmates’ words against guards’, or inmates could not clearly identify the guards in question.
”It seems almost there was a decision not to credit what an inmate says,” said Justin Loughry, a lawyer representing some Bayside inmates. By late 1998, internal affairs investigators concluded there was no evidence of widespread abuse…In the end, no charges, criminal or administrative, related to the aftermath of the murder were brought against guards at Bayside.
But ”questions about the Bayside episode refused to die,” the Times reported. The newspaper’s own investigations, along with those of inmates’ lawyers, uncovered internal prison documents, videotapes, and testimony from whistleblowers that supported the inmates abuse claims. Investigators complained of being told to file inaccurate reports. A few guards came forward to tell about the abuses they witnessed, and one prison ombudsman said that the warden had “responded to reports of injuries by saying prisoners had probably gotten into fights or fallen against their bunks.” According to the Times article:
Portions of surveillance videotapes, identified through the state’s Public Records Law, show guards dragging a handcuffed inmate down a steel staircase like a bag of laundry, and yanking another screaming inmate along a hallway. Other tapes show inmates with cuts and bruises. When an inmate being dragged along the floor begs to walk, a supervisor orders guards to keep him on the ground.
”Don’t pick him up, drag him,” a voice says on the tape. ”I want him drug along the floor, just like that, like a pig.”…
Inmates told similar tales. Adrian Torres, imprisoned for car theft, said prisoners were forced to kneel motionless in the gym for hours. Anyone who moved or complained was dragged to the back of the room and beaten, he said.
”You had inmates urinating in their clothes,” Mr. Torres said in an interview at Northern State Prison in Newark. ”They made it clear: If you turn your head, if you lift your hand up, if you even say anything, they were going to beat you up.”
A prison nurse testified in an unrelated administrative trial that hundreds of inmates went to the infirmary after altercations with guards. The former warden of a nearby prison said that an inmate returned from a work detail at Bayside bearing marks of a beating.
One guard, who requested anonymity, recalled that inmates were forced to walk a gantlet of guards who beat them with nightsticks. ”I could hear them screaming,” the guard said. ”It was horrible.”…
One prisoner, Wilbert Jones, said he was attacked and beaten without provocation by a group of guards, then charged with refusing to follow orders, and placed in solitary confinement for 180 days. ”It is unimaginable when you are in the hole, locked up for something you didn’t do,” Jones told the Times. ”That had to be the lowest point in my life.” His account was later corroborated by another guard who witnessed the attack, but because of the incident, he was denied parole–and remains in prison today.
Four days after the New York Times article appeared, in April 2003, the New Jersey attorney general opened a new investigation. A few inmates have since won damages in civil trials. But the March 29 decision by Judge Bissell will allow dozens, if not hundreds of inmates to sue the state for monetary damages.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bissell found that it was reasonable for the DOC to place the prison on lockdown following the killing of a guard. However, “both as designed and thereafter implemented, [the lockdown] violated the Eighth Amendment rights of inmates.” It quickly became clear that the guard’s murder was “an isolated incident,” Bissell wrote, so ”a full lockdown with SOG’s intimidating presence was not only unnecessary, but dangerous to the safety and well-being of the inmates.”
How often do we hear government officials express concern about “the safety and well-being of inmates”? To hear these words from a former federal district court judge, who has been appointed as a “special master” and empowered to make decisions about the case, offers some hope that after 13 years, these prisoners may finally find some justice.