For the Record
Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners
July 14, 2009
To the Members of the Prison Commission and the Public,
Since last meeting, April 14th, nothing has changed that I have noticed: inmates in Ely State Prison are still not being treated properly for serious medical problems, the prison is still on lockdown except for 2 units, some inmates are kept illegally on a ‘High Risk Potential’ even though there are no apparent reasons to keep them on this inhuman status (keeping an inmate on a leash while he has to walk through the visiting room to the restroom during a visit, sounds a lot like what we saw on pictures in the media of Abu Ghraib).
There also are no programs, no steps, to step down from one level to the next.
Inmates are not able to make telephone calls according to the rules, because telephones are not brought to the inmates when they need to make a call to their relatives.
Cleaning material is scarcely handed out if at all. There are far too many strip-searches, even though it is even noted in the media that it is some employees who bring in illegal drugs, not inmates. Strip-searches are inhumane and the ones who have to check up become dehumanized too by doing them so often. People, whether inside or out, have to be able to retain their dignity.
Also, I hear that very recently, order forms were taken out of catalogues of a bookseller, by those employed in ESP in unit 3, so that the inmates are discouraged to (or can not even) order any books to read. This is unnecessary and it only produces a dangerous level of lethargy and disturbance of minds.
Also, mentally ill patients are being housed in this maximum security prison, whereas it is not meant to be a mental hospital. This brings along high levels of noise and disturbance for those patients (who need treatment) as well as those next door who try to make something of their lives, even if they are locked up. See also the article in Las Vegas Sun recently, July 12 (http://lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jul/12/illness-keeps-many-cycle-through-jail/).
There needs to be a change of mentality in society, in Nevada, within the Department of Corrections, from only cutting costs without any alternative and improvement to making society better and by doing this, preventing crime and cutting cost by not having to house so many people for years on end with no goal, no medical care, no redemption, no growth, no forgiveness, no love.
Is this a message for ‘soft-hearts’? I think it takes guts to want to change and engage in supporting children so that they grow up becoming balanced adults, in stead of greedy, corrupt, selfish people who will believe that crime (doing bad) pays and that being greedy is good. It takes courage to really invest in rehabilitating people who have made wrong decisions, who have succumbed to becoming addicted to hard-drugs. It is not only stupid to be so-called “tough on crime” by not wanting to see what this system results in, it will cost society ultimately too much in money and dangerous situations (most inmates will one day be released!) to lock people up with no alternative and to not want to see they are people, with needs just like you and me. We who pay for the prison system, you and me (I too pay tax over there, as well as those who are incarcerated pay tax), we want oversight over what is happening to our money; and we whose parents, children, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, siblings are locked up: we want to know that even though they are locked up, they are at the same time looked after and offered chances for growth and rehabilitation.
The amount of lawsuits against the warden of ESP is growing, and do we really want our money to go to these lawsuits, if a better warden would be found, who listens and acts when it matters, and who is not a frightening dictator under whose management diabetics rot to death? Surely Nevada can do much better than this!
TO: NEVADA STATE BOARD OF PRISON COMMISSIONERS
FROM: MERCEDES MAHARIS MA MS MA
RE: DEATHS AND UNACCEPTABLE PRISON CONDITIONS
DATE: 14 July 2009
Requested prisoner deaths from May of 2007 to the present have failed to arrive, but here is a partial list only from Carson County, for your information:
Anthony Weber 05/02/07
Richard Adams 05/10/07
Michael Kisling 05/19/07
Warren Staden 06/06/07
Anthony Melchor 06/08/07
Pioquinto Herrera 06/27/07
Virgil Stephens 07/06/07
Virgil Perry 07/29/07
Maynard Humphrey 08/09/07
Mark Miller 08/15/07
Ronald Royston 09/03/07
Michael Wallace 09/03/07
Robert Boswell 11/25/07
Dale Burroughs 12/19/07
Edwin Chartier 12/20/07
James Bey 02/13/08
Jack Leafdale 03/06/08
Lawrence Booker 03/10/08
Luther Hayslip 03/21/08
Armondo Claro-Garcia 03/26/08
Johnnie McGraw 05/18/08
John Stafford 05/27/08
Darren Enlow 05/29/08
Thomas Smith 05/31/08
Hermenegildo Escalara-Barragan 06/02/08
John Dillon 06/04/08
Sylvester Azbill 06/08/08
Bobby Boswell 06/12/08
Felipe Azanon 06/21/08
David St. Pierre 07/07/08
Thomas Zanetti 08/22/08
Pinkus Ralzin 08/29/08
Jose Obregon 09/23/08
William Barney 10/15/08
Donald Tanner 11/04/08
Sever Marga 12/05/08
Raymond Price 12/06/08
Michael Bowman 12/25/08
Though I was polite in my inquiry, the director of nursing hung up in my ear, after telling me to go to your office, AG Cortez Masto. But, to date I have received no answer to my inquiries for NDOC death data and other requests. Why is your staff unable to find my letters and answer them? Is NDOC also losing death data, or not recording it? Your public information staff member told me she would call me back regarding my inquiries, but, she has not.
For your direct information, here are copies of my certified letters to you, AG Masto:
11 May 2009
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto
Office of the Attorney General
100 North Carson Street
Carson City, Nevada 89701-4717
Dear Attorney General Cortez Masto,
I met you at the 21 Feb 2009 meeting of the League of Women Voters of Las Vegas Valley where you spoke on “The Role of the Board of Prison Commissioners.” I’m the lady from Arizona who came a long way to hear you. Remember that we spoke both before and after the meeting?
I shared with you that new leadership was needed for the prisons. You told me that I might like to attend the commissioners’ meeting in April because Mr. Miller was going to bring that up.
Well, I need your help. I spoke at the 14 April meeting, you may remember, and made a written submission for the record, what I see as a pattern of failure, abuse and ways to stop lawsuits.
20 April 2009 I emailed a request for a “DVD and/or audio” of the Nevada State Board of Prison Commissioners’ meeting of 14 April 2009 to Secretary of State Ross Miller’s office assistant, Sally.
I received no email reply. 30 April 2009 I called Mr. Miller’s office. Ms. Sally Lincoln told me that Mr. Miller had sent you my request. She said that he had concerns about fulfilling my request because of family privacy rights that concerned him. But, this was a public meeting.
Ms. Lincoln told me that they had no projected date as to when you would have a decision on whether or not my request could be fulfilled.
Will you please have Mr. Miller’s office send immediately (advise me of costs if there are costs):
a copy of the DVD recording of the meeting (containing both pictures and audio); plus,
a copy of the submissions made to the prison board; and
the sign in list.
I wish that you had given some hope to us at the meeting, a comforting word or two. We want prisoners to succeed. Please do so in the future? We need fully accredited to professional standards… in all areas.
In closing, can you please send what happened during the disturbance in High Desert State Prison 13 April 2009 that Mr. Skolnik talked about at the14th board meeting? Please include photos of both prisoners and guards who were injured, if they were? I sincerely hope all are in good health now.
And my second certified letter:
19 June 2009
Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto
Office of the Attorney General
100 North Carson Street
Carson City, Nevada 89701-4717
Dear Attorney General Cortez Masto,
Three requests for information, please, from the NDOC? If these is a charge for copying, please advise
1. Please send the updated death list information for NDOC prisoners for who have expired while inside NDOC: 20 May 2009 to the present; (NDOC Nursing Director ref’d me to your office);
2. Please send what happened during the disturbance in High Desert State Prison 13 April 2009 that Mr. Skolnik talked about at the14 April board meeting including photos of both prisoners and guards who were injured, if they were? I sincerely hope all are in good health now; and
3. Please send a record of use of force inside NDOC facilities for the past five years, with photos;
4. Please send breakdown of those in solitary confinement, Ad Seg or Dis Seg, as I believe NDOC
officials refer to it, by time and race since 01 January 2007. Years ago NDOC officials did not keep this information. I hope they do now since it is important to understand how officials are administrating Nevada prisons in this regard.
Please answer my inquiries as soon as possible?
Why were staff members unable to prevent this recent tragic death at High Desert State Prison?
Bryan Tyler Nowell, Age 45
Administrative Segregation/Disciplinary Segregation Unit (The HOLE: Solitary Confinement)
Died 03 June 2009
Suicide: Asphyxia by Hanging
Solitary confinement, as I submitted to you in my comments 14 April 2009, the Dr. Stuart Grassian report referenced, causes damage to human beings and in this case, death. We must stop this inhumane process today. Please give the order to Director Skolnik, Governor Gibbons, AG Cortez Masto, Mr. Miller… today, that solitary confinement stops now.
How many suicides have happened since May 2007 in Nevada prisons?
How are first line responders on duty in Nevada prisons educated to recognize those who are mentally unstable and may be thinking of taking their lives?
Are corrections officers advised about who is taking psychotropic drugs? Shouldn’t they know this in order to prevent suicide and other violence?
What is the budget for first responder education?
For a person to die in solitary confinement, or be allegedly gassed approximately 20 times and have a guard break a finger in a food slot at Ely State Prison recently, per a new Ely lawsuit in US District Court, is unacceptable and socially reprehensible. Prisoners are people.
Why are NDOC officials denied a prisoner with a rare liver disease medical care at High Desert, Mr. Miller? Will you please visit him to see for yourself? Will he die before release? Don’t you want to see his refused medical grievances? His life is at stake.
Why are NDOC officials shuttling the Ely HIV prisoner, whom guards there and at NSP have beaten, stabbed and shot during his Nevada incarceration, for treatment to High Desert, even though there are no specialists there to help him? Does this not further stress this prisoner to the point that he, too, will die young? Please move this prisoner to NNCC where he belongs.
We want to see education for officers and staff in violence prevention in Nevada prisons.
Where does the prison food coming from? What is the daily cost now? Why are we receiving reports of Nevada prisons serving expired food and that it is dwindling in serving sizes? How many calories are our prisoners getting daily? Where are the dieticians to supervise food service? Is it true that Nevada prisoner requests for Kosher food are not being honored?
What about those prison buses that the Department of Transportation has no responsibility to check for safety during prisoner transports? Who manufacturers those buses? Who inspects them and how often? How do prisoners get out alive if there is an accident? Are they coached on what to do in case of an accident to be able to get out safely? Why don’t prisoners get to see out? Are bus drivers licensed commercially? How many buses are there?
Is it true that NDOC officials allow senior corrections officers to recruit informants, snitches in prison terms, from the prison population, putting even more stress on prisoners. Do they order corrections officers to put prisoners on the train to Ely without due process? How much retaliation takes place against those who refuse? To what extent is retaliation taking place?
Why do Nevada prison mailrooms refuse to deliver books to prisoners, approved books that arrive? What happens to books undelivered to prisons? Why do corrections officers read magazines that families and loved ones pay for and reportedly keep them from the prisoners for weeks? Why don’t mailroom officials follow mail AR’s? Why do you allow punishment to all Ely prisoners by making them use tiny ink well fillers to write their letters with? To stop them from writing to loved ones and filing lawsuits?
Are you being loyal to the law by allowing unaccredited standards, operations and policies to continue inside Nevada prisons?
Why don’t Nevada prisoners in solitary confinement get daily fresh air and exercise, as is their right? Why do corrections officers take prisoners out at midnight, interrupting the sleep cycle?
Why do you allow Ely lockdown for years and years and years to continue? Please stop this today. You have the power. You can do it.
What are the guidelines for putting people into solitary confinement, ad seg, dis seg, to use your euphemisms?
Where are the felony charges against Nevada prisoners who are in solitary for extended periods?
Please produce the records of how long prison officials are keeping Nevada prisoners in solitary confinement.
Why don’t Nevada prisoners go to jail for assaults? Why don’t Nevada corrections officers go to jail for assaults?
How are the perpetrators of rape charged? Do they go to court? Or, do NDOC officials punish them by extending sentences without due process?
What are the NDOC regulations for time limits, if any, placed on people going into solitary?
Where are, and what are, the administrative regulations for the amount of time that officials can put prisoners in solitary confinement?
How much money is in the budget for corrections officers’ educations about recognition of mental health problems that prisoners may be suffering?
Here are excerpts of a letter from a prisoners’ family member that we received 13 July 2009:
…” I have suffered 13 years under the duress and frustration of the corrupt Nevada Prison System, Judicial system period. This is the “Country of Nevada”. Good Ole boys for sure and Ely guards are barbarians! P.up trucks drinking in the hills, cruel, I have seen the bleeding wounds on my husband’s ankles from having the shackles set to wear they rub and rub and break open old scabs from the week before, one guard will hike them up and tighten them another will just let them shift all around, I mean come on, walk from port to visit belly chain hands behind back cuffed shackles like he,s the incredible hulk and an escort officer, sometimes two, give me a break!
Ooooh are those guards tough, gag me, disgusting display of over the top unnecessary pain for the prisoner and extreme drama to increase the all ready distorted sense of importance these guards have!
No wonder they have such domestic violence problems!
…we do not trust anyone in connection with law they are all crooked corrupt tools of the higher echelon of our corrupt legal system.
As I stated I have suffered 13 years as has my husband I am ready to take a stand no matter what this lousy system needs to be torn down from the top down.”
What response do you advise us to give to this free person who is suffering daily because of operations and policies at Ely State Prison?
Please, take the high road in eliminating unacceptable Nevada prison conditions starting today. Implement a platform of rehabilitation and hope.
Please replace ineffective NDOC leadership with professional administration.
Please implement oversight in Nevada prisons today==before more violence erupts and the death toll for Nevada prisoners continues to escalate.
Mercedes Maharis MA MS MA