When Good People Do Nothing: The Appalling Story of South Carolina’s Prisons

This was published on The Atlantic website, written by Andrew Cohen for The Atlantic on Jan. 10th, 2014:

A judge’s order in an inmate abuse case highlights the role played, or not played, by the state’s political and legal infrastructure.

In two months, America will observe the 50th anniversary of one of its most dubious moments. On March 13, 1964, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally murdered in Queens, New York. What made her case infamouslegendary, even—was that nobody responded to her cries for help. “Please help me, please help me!” she cried, over and over, and at least 38 people in her neighborhood who heard those cries did nothing to help her. They did not call the police. They did not come to comfort her. They did not, they later said, want to get involved. “When good people do nothing” is a timeless moral question, indeed.

One could say the same thing about the citizens of the state of South Carolina, who stand condemned today by one of their own. On Wednesday, in one of the most wrenching opinions you will ever read, a state judge in Columbia ruled that South Carolina prison officials were culpable of pervasive, systemic, unremitting violations of the state’s constitution by abusing and neglecting mentally ill inmates. The judge, Michael Baxley, a decorated former legislator, called it the “most troubling” case he ever had seen and I cannot disagree. Read the ruling. It’s heartbreaking.

Read the rest of this story here.

Deaths in Custody – Homicide: Nunuha family sues CCA and state.

This poor man’s murder was preventable – and horrendous. Condolences to his loved ones. I hope you make CCA and the State of Hawai’i pay – it’s the only thing that seems to make these people change how they abuse and neglect other human beings. If you need the support of other prisoners’ families surviving similar traumas, please let me know (Peggy Plews 480-580-6807 prisonabolitionist@gmail.com). I am in Phoenix, AZ.
Arizona State Legislature, Phoenix.
February 15, 2011
—————-from the ACLU of Hawai’i————–

Family of Hawaii Prisoner Murdered in Mainland Prison Files Lawsuit Against State of Hawaii, Corrections Corporation of America

Today the family of Bronson Nunuha, a 26-year-old Hawaii prisoner who was brutally murdered at a Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) (NYSE:CXW) private prison in Arizona in 2010, filed a lawsuit in state court against CCA and the State of Hawaii.  The suit exposes CCA’s business model of grossly short-staffing prisons and cutting corners in every way possible to make its private prisons profitable.  These systemic practices violated fundamental safety requirements and subjected Hawaii prisoners to rampant gang violence in under-staffed prison units.  Bronson Nunuha was just months away from release on a burglary conviction when CCA forced him to share housing with extremely violent, gang-affiliated prisoners in the same unit.  A copy of the complaint is here

“Bronson’s death was senseless and preventable.  CCA and the State of Hawaii needlessly put him in danger,” said attorney Kenneth M. Walczak, who, along with the Human Rights Defense Center and the ACLU of Hawaii, represents the Nunuha family. 

“Private prisons are known to have higher levels of violence due to understaffing and high staff turnover that result from their goal of generating ever-greater profits,” added HRDC director Paul Wright. “But prison companies are not allowed to make profit more important than human life.  Unfortunately, CCA’s desire to turn a corporate profit needlessly cost Bronson Nunuha his life.”

Bronson was transferred to CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona as part of a controversial practice in which Hawaii prisoners are sent to for-profit mainland facilities. He was serving a 5-year sentence for burglary and property damage when he was killed by other prisoners. Bronson, who was only months away from completing his sentence and returning to his family on Oahu, left behind a grieving mother, sisters, and his seven-year-old son. 

Under Hawaii law, the State was required to return Bronson to Hawaii when he had only a year left on his sentence so that he could complete necessary programs to help him re-enter the community.  The State ignored this law.

Bronson was murdered in CCA’s “Special Housing Incentive Program,” or SHIP. The SHIP program places rival gang members and prisoners who do not belong to any gang together in one unit, where they share recreation time and sometimes the same cell.  Predictably, this practice results in violent incidents like Bronson’s murder. Only one CCA employee was present to oversee approximately 50 prisoners in the SHIP unit where Bronson was housed.

While at the CCA prison, Bronson had asked to be removed from the SHIP unit but CCA staff denied his requests.  On February 18, 2010, two gang members attacked Bronson in his cell; the cell door had been opened by a CCA employee, who then left. Bronson was beaten and stabbed over 100 times. His assailants carved the name of their gang into his chest and even had time to leave his cell, shower and change clothes before CCA staff knew that Bronson had been killed. 

One of Bronson’s assailants, Miti Maugaotega, Jr., had previously been involved in several attacks on other prisoners at a different CCA prison. Maugaotega, a gang member, was serving multiple life sentences for attempted murder, rape, and armed robbery. CCA and the State knew that Maugaotega was dangerous and capable of extreme violence but still housed him in the same unit as Bronson, a non-violent offender close to finishing a 5-year sentence.

CCA prisons that house Hawaii prisoners have been plagued with problems. In addition to Bronson’s murder, another Hawaii prisoner, Clifford Medina, was killed at the Saguaro facility in June 2010. In 2009, Hawaii removed all of its female prisoners from CCA’s Otter Creek Correctional Center in Kentucky following a scandal that resulted in at least six CCA employees being charged with rape or sexual misconduct. Other Hawaii prisoners have sued CCA, charging that the company has tolerated beatings and sexual assaults in its mainland prisons, and for refusing to allow them to participate in native Hawaiian religious practices.

“Why the State of Hawaii continues to contract with this company is mystifying, frankly,” said Wright. “After two murders, disturbances, allegations of rampant sexual abuse and a lack of accountability by CCA employees, it’s fairly obvious that CCA is unable or unwilling to safely house Hawaii prisoners, and the State is unable or unwilling to adequately monitor conditions at mainland prisons. Hawaii taxpayers are certainly not getting what they’re paying for.”

ACLU of Hawaii Senior Staff Attorney Dan Gluck added, “the ACLU has long warned the State about the damaging effects of its short-sighted policy of shipping prisoners to the mainland. This tragedy is bound to be repeated unless Hawaii adopts more effective prison policies.” 

Bronson’s family is represented by the San Francisco law firm of Rosen, Bien & Galvan, LLP, by HRDC chief counsel Lance Weber, and by the ACLU of Hawaii’s Dan Gluck.  The attorneys ask anyone with information about Bronson’s death – or information about violations of other safety rules at the CCA Saguaro Correctional Facility – to contact them.              
 
###

The Human Rights Defense Center, founded in 1990 and based in Brattleboro, Vermont, is a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human rights in U.S. detention facilities. HRDC publishes Prison Legal News, a monthly magazine that includes reports, reviews and analysis of court rulings and news related to prisoners’ rights and criminal justice issues. PLN has almost 7,000 subscribers nationwide and operates a website (www.prisonlegalnews.org) that includes a comprehensive database of prison and jail-related articles, news reports, court rulings, verdicts, settlements and related documents. 

 Rosen Bien & Galvan, LLP has a unique practice blending public interest and private sector litigation.  The firm represents individuals and companies in complex trial and appellate litigation in state & federal courts.

Prisoners Post: to the CEO of CCA, Damon Hininger.

Hope some of Hawai’is legislators are paying attention to this – look at what you really get for your dollar in Arizona.

This is a courageous, frank letter from a prisoner of the Corrections Corporation of America and the City of Eloy out at the Saguaro Correctional Facility (where 18 prisoners are suing for torture, and one is suing a guard for sexual assault).

I sure hope Thad was right when he guessed that the CEO may actually answer his letter, though, if he’s right about all this, then they’ll be sure to send someone to his cell to harass and write him up, at the very least.

Keep us posted on how you’re faring in there, Thad. We still want to see you make it out of there soon. He makes a hell of a lot of money off of prisoners like you behaving yourselves, so I’d think he’ could afford the grace to listen...

– Peg

“Prisoners Have Families, Too”.
Maricopa County Jail: Tent City.

Phoenix, AZ. (April 6, 2011)

PS: Here’s the follow-up post to this letter. Thad got harassed alright – he was hit for another year by the parole board after they had already given him an out date, thanks to a personal call from the good warden at Saguaro after this post went up. As far as I’m concerned, they’re corrupt through and through in Eloy, Arizona: the City of God.


————————————————

To The CEO of CCA:
Damon Hininger

Corrections Corporation of America

10 Burton Hills Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37215

Phone: (615) 263-3000; (800) 624-2931
Fax: (615) 263-3140

NJ Prisons Exposed: HBO’s "An Omar Broadway Film"

Here is a synopsis of the movie.

Here is what Solitarywatch wrote about the film.

This comes from Garden State CURE, New Jersey’s chapter of the national “Citizens United For Restoration of Errants” – they do awesome criminal justice reform work (but need a lot of help with their website, apparently).

If you miss this broadcast, contact HBO and ask how to get a copy of the show. For more information about Garden State CUre, I’m sure Donna would be happy to have you contact her.

In the meantime, check out the resources that CURE National has.

—————————

From: donntay@aol.com

Sent: Sat, Jul 10, 2010 12:54 am

Hello everyone:

As the Executive Director of Garden State CURE, CURE Leaders should recall I produced a CD at our last 2 conventions in an attempt to expose abuse in NJ Prisons. The Footage was taken by an inmate in Northern State Prison who was successful in sneaking a camera in to document the abuses we would otherwise never see. His mother was diligent in her plight to expose the abuse in NJ Prisons and I am very pleased to announce the documentary called “An Omar Broadway Film” will broadcast on HBO, Wednesday at 8 pm EST. Please watch this documentary. Im sure it will be an eye opening experience even for those of us who already know the deal. God bless.

Ambassador Donna Brewer
Executive Director
Garden State CURE, Inc.
215.892.8796
Radio Talk Show Host
Restorative Justice

More on this subject from the Boston Globe:

REVIEW
A view of prison life — from the inside
By Sam Allis, Globe Staff | July 14, 2010

We’ve seen sanitized glimpses of prison life before, in print and on television magazines. There is a distance to all of them from the inner reality of those institutions. Such efforts are almost always approved by corrections officials, and we see very little of the life those officials don’t want us to see. And then comes Omar Broadway.

Broadway, a member of the notorious Bloods gang, with a hair-raising criminal record, had served seven years in solitary confinement at New Jersey’s infamous Northern State Prison in Newark, on multiple felony convictions. Someone, presumably a sympathetic guard, smuggled him a digital video camera in 2004 to document conditions there. For six months, he recorded the life around him.

Despite limited camera range because of the small opening in his cell door, bad lighting, and jumpy camera work, he presents hallucinogenic sights and sounds of prison life — the remote echoes of voices, blurry frames of cell bars, indistinct figures of guards, inmates in their cells engaged in furious shadowboxing.

What he ends up with is “An Omar Broadway Film,’’ codirected by Broadway and Douglas Tirola, which was well received at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. HBO bought it during the festival, he says, following its penchant for airing documentaries you can’t imagine seeing anywhere else.

This one chronicles the appalling prisoner abuse by guards as well as the terror of the officers working there. The guards are a gang in their own right, formed to protect themselves from very dangerous men who are behind bars 23 hours a day. There exists a vicious intimacy between the two camps.

Most shocking are the protests by prisoners who refuse to return to their cells. They cover themselves in plastic to minimize the effects of pepper spray from the guards in riot gear, who charge in force. The guards quickly overwhelm the prisoners and beat them on the floor. Broadway chronicles a number of these ghastly rituals. The prisoners know what to expect, yet wait for the onslaught anyway, out of bravery or nihilistic resignation.

The documentary presents the prisoners as victims of the brutal environment. They are, but missing is what brought them there in the first place. These are bad actors, the most difficult gang leaders and members. They were sent to a special place — the Security Threat Group Management Unit, devised to isolate them from the general prison population — yet mention of their crimes in any specificity is lacking.

Tirola, president of 4th Row Films, directs those segments filmed outside of prison that focus on the mean streets of East Orange, N.J., where Broadway grew up. Drugs, violence, the neighborhood has it all. Broadway’s mother, Lynne, gives us a tour of the area. She is a strong-willed woman, defending her son and minimizing his criminal life.

Eventually, sympathetic guards, who all identify themselves as “Walter,’’ contact Broadway on his cellphone and help smuggle out the tapes. Broadway expects outrage from the public when it sees the footage. Not a chance. A local network affiliate airs some of it without result. Oprah Winfrey never responds to a request to air it. Broadway’s mother tries to sell DVDs of the footage on the streets. She sells 32.

She need worry no longer. HBO2 presents the film tonight to a national audience. Omar couldn’t ask for more.

Sam Allis can be reached at allis@globe.com.
Boston Globe

Idaho Fines Private Prison for Contract Violations

The state is ordering private prison company Correction Corporation of America to pay thousands of dollars and fix problems with drug and alcohol treatment and medical care at the Idaho Correctional Center.

Ten of 13 drug and alcohol counselors at the prison near Boise aren’t qualified to provide treatment under CCA’s contract with the state, according to records obtained by The Associated Press.

Additionally, a medical audit by Idaho Department of Correction officials earlier this year shows the private prison has extensive problems administering medical care, including inadequate records; delays in providing medications, immunizations and mental health care; and a lack of follow-up or oversight when inmates are returned to the lockup after being hospitalized.

The state ordered CCA to provide it with a plan to fix the medical care problems by May 25, but the company has already missed that deadline.

Idaho is also imposing liquidated damages against CCA for violating its state contract by failing to have qualified drug and alcohol counselors. The damages rack up at a rate of more than $2,600 a day; so far, CCA owes the state more than $40,000 for the violations.

“We’re very concerned,” said Rona Siegert, director of Idaho Department of Correction Health Services. “That’s the whole purpose of the audit, to find these things before they get to a level where they’re critical.”

Nashville, Tenn.-based CCA responded to questions about the problems through a prepared statement.

“Regarding the findings of recent medical audits completed by the Idaho Department of Corrections at Idaho Correctional Center, we acknowledge and share the concerns of our government partner and take them seriously. While the identified issues are not at a critical stage, we are working actively and deliberately to quickly and effectively resolve them,” the company said.

CCA also said it is trying to hire qualified staffers for its drug and alcohol rehabilitation program.

“Our efforts to recruit qualified and credentialed addiction, alcohol and drug professionals from the available pool of local candidates continue. We are confident that these efforts will result in our company being in compliance in the near term with a fully credentialed Therapeutic Community staff, as local qualified professionals seek employment opportunities.”

Company officials also said several staff members are set to undergo certification testing in the coming months. But Natalie Warner, the Idaho Department of Correction’s contract administrator and quality assurance manager, said that under the schedule CCA provided for its current employees, the last of the certifications won’t be completed until June 2011. Meanwhile, CCA will have racked up more than $100,000 in liquidated damages.


In an April letter informing the private prison company of the issues, Idaho Department of Administration purchasing officer Jason Urquhart said the Correction Department feared that the drug and alcohol program violations could increase costs for the state.

Offenders often are required to complete the Therapeutic Community program to be released, so if the program’s integrity is compromised, offenders may have to stay in prison longer, increasing costs to the state, Urquhart wrote. He went on to say that the parole commission could require offenders to take part in drug and alcohol programs at other prisons — also increasing costs.

The medical audits, completed between February and April, suggest that in many cases, inmates are going without adequate care, Siegert said. Still, Siegert said the Correction Department didn’t know of any inmates who had suffered injury or harm because of the violations.

Among other problems found in the audits, inmates in the prison’s infirmary were sometimes left alone, without any working pager or call-light system to call a nurse or doctor in an emergency. They also were going too long between medical checks by nursing staff, according to the records.

“Our requirement is that a provider makes the rounds every day to see if they’re getting better or getting worse, what their vital signs are,” Siegert said.

Medical test results also languished unread for too long, raising the possibility that serious medical problems weren’t being addressed right away, Siegert said.

If the company doesn’t repair or adequately explain the audit findings, Idaho can impose liquidated damages for those violations as well.

“It’s going to stay on our radar and we’re going to continue watching it very closely,” Warner said.

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/06/01/financial/f114357D89.DTL&type=science#ixzz0peqqAWjZ

MS: Unconstitutional Living Conditions

Unconstitutional Living Condition ~ Unedited ~By Jamie Scott ~ Please Forward to Media Outlets

April 20, 2010

Jamie Scott # 19197
CMCF/2A-B-Zone
P.O. Box 88550
Pearl, MS 39288-8850

The living condition in quickbed area is not fit for any human to live in. I have been incarcerated for 15 years 6 months now and this is the worst I have ever experience. When it rain out side it rain inside. The zone flood like a river. The rain comes down on our heads and we have to try to get sheets and blankets to try to stop it from wetting our beds and personnel property. Because the floors are concrete and it have paint on it, it makes it very slippery when it rain and there have been numerous of inmates that have broke their arms and hurt there self do to this. Above our heads there are rows and rows of spiders as if we live in the jungle. There are inmates that have holds in there bodies left from spider bites, because once they are bitten it take forever to get to the clinic for any help. There are mold in the bathroom ceiling and around the walls and toilets. The toilets leak sewage from under them and they have the inmate men to come in and patch them up occasionally. The smell is awful. The showers are two circular poles with five shower heads on each pole. The floor in the shower is also concrete and slippery. There is nothing to hold on to when you exit the shower so there have been many inmates that have hurt there self in the process. Outside the building there is debirs where the unit is falling apart. Each day we are force to live in these conditions. The staph infection is so high and we are force to wave in toilet and sewage water when we have to go to the bathroom. I have witness to many inmates die at the hands of this second rate medical care. I do not want to be one of them. When this is brought to the health department or anyone attention. The MDOC tries to get the inmate to try to pamper it up so if someone comes in it want look as bad as the inmates said it did. I am fully aware that we are in prison, but no one should have to live in such harsh condition. I am paranoid of catching anything because of what I have been going throw with my medical condition. We are living in these harsh conditions, but if you go to the administration offices, they are nice and clean and smell nice because they make sure the inmates clean their offices each day. They tell us to clean the walls. Cleaning the walls will not help anything. Cleaning the walls will not stop the rain from pouring in. it will not stop the mold from growing inside the walls and around us. It will not stop the spiders from mating. They have 116 inmates on each wing, and we live not five feet from each other in order to pack us in. We have the blowers on the ceiling and if the inmates are acting crazy or the staff come in mad they use the blowers as a form of punishment. The taxes payers really are lead to believe we are been rehabilitated. That is a joke. All we do is sit in this infected unit and build up more hate. Rehabilitated starts within you. If you want to change you will change. One thing about MDOC, they know how to fix the paper work up to make it seen as if they are doing their job. You can get more drugs and anything else right here. I have witness a lot in my time here. Do I sound angry, I am not I am hurt and sick. Because they have allowed my kidney to progress to stage five which been the highest. They told me years ago I had protein in my urine, but I went years without any help. Now, it seen the eyes are on me because my family are on their case. Every inmate is not without family. Yes, you do have many inmates that family have giving up on, but my sister and I are not them. I do not want special attention; I want to treat, and to live how the state says on paper we are living. The same way when it is time for the big inspection we are promised certain food if we please clean up to pass this inspection. So I beg of anyone to please understand Mississippi Department of Correction is a joke. They will let you die or even kill yourself. We are told when visitors come into the prison do not talk to them. Well I have the right to talk to anyone and if the health department or anyone comes I will talk to him or her, because this is my life and I should or anyone else should be force to live like this. They use unlawful punishments to try to shut us up. I need help. I need a inmate to help me, but for some reason they will not allow me to move with my sister, so she can help me. There are mother and daughter, aunties, and nieces housed together and also there are a total of 12 inmates acting as orally for others inmates. I have all the names of the inmates acting as a orally if need to be giving. However, the subject of my sister is been danced around. A form of discrimination. My sister (Gladys Scott) and I were housed together for over ten years and not once have we ever caused any problem. We were spit up because in 2003 the Commissioner came with the order to separate all family members. Because its payback because my family is holding them accountable to do what they are paid to do. Also, do to the fact Mr. Daniels on it’s a New Day & Grassroots are keeping the supports inform that is been pointed out to me in a negative way. Now that I am sitting everyday because of my sickness I have time to use my typewriter. MDOC have gotten away with to much. In addition, some of the things that go on here I truly believe that Mr. Epps do not know.

Visit the links below for more information on Jamie Scott:
Free The Scott Sisters

Media Campaign Links on Imprisoned Women’s Rights Watch

Man dies of apparent suicide while in custody of Orleans Parish sheriff

A man died in the custody of the Orleans Parish sheriff Friday night, about two hours after he arrived at an intake facility on a charge of heroin possession.

In a news release, Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman called the death of Michael Hitzman, 31, an apparent suicide.

Hitzman is the fourth inmate to die this year while in the custody of the sheriff’s office.

Hitzman arrived at the sheriff’s Intake and Processing Center at about 5 p.m. Friday. He was screened by medical staff, who observed wounds on his forearms consistent with intravenous drug use, the news release said.

According to the release, a physician prescribed an antibiotic and scheduled a follow-up appointment.

Hitzman initially appeared calm but subsequently attempted to leave through the emergency doors and began exhibiting “belligerent, uncooperative” behavior, according to the sheriff’s office.

For his own safety and the safety of others, Hitzman was placed into an individual holding cell at around 6 p.m., the news release said.

At 7:14 p.m., a deputy found that Hitzman had apparently attached his T-shirt to the cell door and strangled himself. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

“At no time during the booking and screening process for this arrest, or any prior arrests, or during any of his prior incarcerations, did Hitzman express or exhibit any suicidal tendencies,” said an e-mail sent by sheriff’s office spokeswoman Mary Martin.

An autopsy is being conducted by the Orleans Parish coroner’s office.

Last month, two Orleans Parish Prison inmates died about an hour apart, though the deaths were unrelated.

About midday on March 30, Shedrick Godfrey, 48, died of an apparent heart attack while working a community service detail with other inmates. About an hour later Chris Blevins, 22, died from a stab wound to the chest suffered during a lunchtime fight with another inmate.

Richard Scearce, 60, who was arrested after a daylong standoff with New Orleans police last fall, died of cardiac arrest Jan. 19 while in custody of the sheriff’s office. Scearce died at the Interim LSU Public Hospital, where he had been transferred for treatment of a urinary tract infection, Gusman’s office said.

Scearce had barricaded himself inside his Uptown apartment Oct. 30 after receiving an eviction notice. He fired an assault rifle several times and set fire to his home, police said.

In December, Gusman and several of his staff members were sued by the father of a New Orleans woman who died in restraints in the jail’s psychiatric unit.

Cayne Miceli, 43, had a history of asthma, panic attacks and depression but was denied adequate medical care after she arrived at the jail in January 2009, the suit alleges. Miceli was arrested after allegedly biting a police officer who tried to remove her from Tulane Medical Center, where she had been treated for an asthma attack.

A U.S. Department of Justice report last year raised numerous concerns about the jail’s medical services.

The report — which Gusman said was outdated and ignored post-Katrina difficulties — mostly singled out the jail’s mental health care procedures. It criticized the jail’s use of restraints on a tier reserved for mentally ill patients and the facility’s procedures for preventing suicide and dispensing medication to inmates.

The report did not criticize screenings for other medical problems at the intake and processing center, and it concluded that other aspects of the jail’s medical care met constitutional mandates.