This is a guest post on the weblog Live from Lockdown, “the real deal, authentic and uncensored. Born in the Bureau of Prisons’ Special Management Unit (SMU) at one of the nation’s most notorious prisons- the Big House, USP Lewisburg”:
November 14th 2012
I’m writing this piece on prison life due to the fact that there is so much going on within this prison system, specifically the NJ Department Of Corrections (NJDOC), that society should know. These issues really need to be exploited and hopefully whoever reads this will be able to get it to the media and really put the issues on the table.
I’ve been incarcerated for a little over ten years now, and I’ve pretty much seen things in this prison system, which are not only a violation of my rights but to society as well. I say that because the way we are treated and conditioned in here is the way most of us will come home and carry ourselves because this is all we know after being incarcerated in these conditions for so long. Prepare yourself for what it is to be HELD PRISONER in Trenton (NJ) State Prison’s Management Control Unit (M.C.U.)…..
First, I will touch on the food being served daily. Most days the food that is supposed to be served hot is usually the exact opposite, cold. For example, I can get a tray of oatmeal and put my spoon in it to take a bite and literally pick up the whole serving at once. That’s usually how most of our food is. I’ve even saw one of the brothers open one of the milks and there was some type of black tar stuck to the inside of the milk carton. Finding dead and live insects in a meal in here doesn’t surprise the average prisoner at all. Mice droppings have also become part of some of our diets as well. Moldy bread is so normal in certain areas in this prison system that I actually heard someone trying to convince another prisoner that mold can be good for them in some ways. Not to mention that most of the food we are served really does look like vomit. How can a person sit down and eat something that looks like cold vomit?
We are treated like this because we are convicted felons and a lot of us have committed some very harsh crimes. In the eyes of most we should not be treated fairly or even be alive for that matter, but the fact still remains that WE ARE HUMAN and deserve to be treated as such. Not to mention that just because you are in prison you have committed a crime. In my eyes, from what I know, there are more innocent people in prison than there are on the street.
PHYSICAL CONDITIONS OF THE MANAGEMENT CONTROL UNIT
Another issue I want to touch on is the living conditions we are FORCED to endure. These cages they house us in shouldn’t even be utilized for animals, let alone humans. The paint is so badly chipped and falling off the walls that it can’t be safe to be around 24-hours per day. Most of the toilets and sinks are so messed up that these plumbers are probably the busiest workers in this prison system. If I flush my toilet, my feces come up in my neighbor’s toilet in the cell next to mine and vice versa.
As for the “water” that’s coming out of the sink, it isn’t clear at all. The water that comes out of these sinks is white. Sometimes if I’m lucky, I will catch it clear. Still, I know it’s no pure because the smell of it is one that automatically draws a warning sign in your head not to drink it.
The vents meant for air circulation are so filthy and dusty that it is impossible for them to serve their original purpose. There are two vents in these cells. The one that blows usually blows out a smell that will eventually push us to just block the entire thing up, period. The one that is for suction is so clogged and dusty that it barely works. With the vents like this, it almost always causes us to get sick and sometimes even stay sick. These types of living conditions are definitely a health hazard to us as well as the staff that are around us 24 hours per day.
Another thing is the ceiling leaks water into our cells on rainy days. The more it rains outside, the more water literally leaks in our cells; all over our beds, electronics, down our walls, and even to the hallways on the tier. We’ve wrote this issue up so many times through the remedy system and still the issue remains. This is pretty much an M.C.U. issue.
There is so much dust and dirt throughout this prison that I’m almost certain that it’s killing us slowly. There are guys that have been incarcerated in this prison so long that it is impossible to say that these conditions are not just affecting them. The Administration just doesn’t seem to care at all. In my eyes, they’d rather let us live in cruel conditions and save money than fix these problems.
Not only are the living conditions cruel and unusual punishment but the simple fact that they make us spend years in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) is literally having a real negative affect on us mentally.
PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL AFFECTS of SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
Solitary confinement has proven to be very dangerous to a person’s physical and mental health, especially in cases of extended isolation. Personally, I have experienced some of the negative affects of solitary confinement such as not being comfortable around other people. I also can’t be myself around people any more. It’s like I shy away from people whenever they try to talk to me, or I start stuttering and get nervous during conversations because I am just not used to them any more. I even get like this when my own family comes to visit me now.
The only way I can truly express myself is simply by writing. I’ve been in solitary for over five years and have ten years to go. It’s like the longer I am here and isolated from others, I don’t trust anyone else, and my guard is always up whenever I’m around other people. The reason why it feels crazy to me is because I am well aware of it, and I know that it has to be the solitary confinement. But, still, I can’t help it when put in a position around others. Nonetheless, I do everything in my power to keep my sanity such as: reading, writing, praying, and exercising. Deep down inside, I know I need help.
I’ve seen guys lose their minds in here right in front of my eyes. One minute they were alright and the next minute they didn’t even know where they were. That’s what scares me the most. I don’t want to be one of those guys. The thing is, they don’t want to give me the help I need. So now I ask myself questions like, how much longer can I hold out?
ADMINISTRATIVE SEGREGATION (Ad-Seg)
Another issue is the ad-seg conditions throughout the NJDOC system. Administrative Segregation is a lockup where prisoners are put in whenever they are institutionally charged with an infraction of some sort. In addition to being placed in ad-seg for fifteen years, I ws put on M.C.U. status as well. The Management Control Unit is also a lockup for gang leaders who have too much influence, guys that have killed or seriously hurt Correction Officers, guys with extensive disciplinary histories, a violent past, or pose a threat to others and the facility.
CHANGES TO AD-SEG COMMISSARY CATALOG
Recently, they made a change to the commissary catalog for ad-seg prisoners throughout the entire New Jersey prison system. They took things off our catalogs that were actually more helpful than anything. For example, we used to be able to order vitamins- such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and multivitamins. Now, they told us we can’t order them any more. They never gave a specific reason. They just said we can’t.
The only type of food that ad-seg prisoners are now allowed to order is all junk and sweets. There is no actual real food on the commissary order form for ad-seg prisoners like there used to be. They just recently changed this on November 1, 2011. They removed all the soups, fish, chicken, and other foods and left us with stuff that will eventually give us diabetes if we choose to eat it. To be honest, most of us don’t have a choice. We just can’t simply eat the slop they serve. Even if we do eat it, the portions are so little that we are left still hungry.
So first they take all the vitamins and other health products off of commissary, then they take all the food off and add all the junk food and sweets. Does this seem like people trying to help or trying to hurt us?
It’s not like ad-seg prisoners don’t have to endure these conditions for years at a time in most cases. I am a prime example that that’s not true. This is not only a disgrace, but it’s also a health hazard.
They won’t let us order surge suppressors (outlet protectors) anymore. These prisons have power outages regularly. At one point in time, the power outages were so bad that eventually they actually put out a memo saying that we need to order surge suppressors so the power outages wouldn’t blow out our T.V.’s and other electronics. We did as told so our property wouldn’t be destroyed. Now, not only are they saying we can’t have them, but they actually came and took them away from us. It was like a big money scam or something…
Ad-seg prisoners also used to get “State Pay”. Basically, you would get about $18/month or so to buy the necessities such as toiletries (most can’t use the soap they give out here because it breaks them out), food for those who cannot eat what they serve, shower slippers, towels, washcloths, and other things that they do not provide but are needed. They just stopped giving ad-seg inmates State Pay, but regular population still gets State Pay. There are so many guys in ad-seg who don’t have family helping them or no support out there at all who can put money in their accounts so they could get what’s needed for survival. These guys are back here slowly losing their minds because in all actuality there’s only but so much a person can take.
Then, to top it all off, they just up and stopped everyone from smoking. There were no programs to help you quit, no substitutes- no nothing. Just forced to stop! I’m not mad at the that want us to stop smoking, but it’s they way they did it. There are guys who had been smoking for so long that they are now in here literally losing their minds because they were forced to stop. It’s good to stop smoking but the way they did it is very dangerous to prisoners as well as staff. And if they want to stop us from smoking out of concern for our health, what about our dietary needs and the facilities issues?
EDUCATION and REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS?
Another thing being done to ad-seg prisoners is that we are being denied schooling and rehabilitative programs. I literally have all the paperwork needed to back this up, an I am willing to mail anyone a copy who is reading this and willing to do something about it. I’ve written so many requests, letters and remedy forms letting them know that I would like to participate in their rehabilitative programs because I really want to change my life for the best. I’m willing to do what I can to learn how to become a better man and just learn the right ways to do things. I explained to them that I have fifteen years ad-seg, and I don’t want to sit here and not earn from it. They literally told me that I can’t take any of their programs because I am on ad-seg status. They said they do not offer any programs to ad-seg prisoners.
First and foremost, I have a right to rehabilitation by law. This prison system is basically designed to rehabilitate prisoners and get us ready for our return to society. By them denying me rehabilitative programs contradicts the whole purpose of the NJDOC. If anything, the guys on ad-seg are the ones who should really be getting the programs due to the fact that they are the ones allegedly catching the institutional infractions and getting into trouble.
I’ve got fifteen years ad-seg, M.C.U. status, and I’ve basically been in trouble since my incarceration. Now, I’m coming for help so I can better myself and change my life and they tell me no. How does that help anyone? And people wonder why a lot of guys come home with the same mentality, if not worse, they had when they went in. It’s because we aren’t getting any type of real help in here. It’s because these people rather keep any funds they receive to rehabilitate us and just simply tell us they aren’t going to help us.
Right now, I’m in Trenton (NJ) State Prison. Before I came here I was in Northern State Prison where I worked extra hard to obtain my high school diploma by enrolling in school and dedicating my days and nights to learning my work. Once I finally obtained my diploma, I immediately enrolled in a college correspondence course so I could obtain my College Degree in Psychology. Everything was smooth until I was transferred here to Trenton State Prison for a disciplinary infraction I caught. Once I got here, they immediately started denying me the access I needed to continue my courses because I’m an ad-seg prisoner and, according to them, ad-seg prisoners aren’t allowed to do anything but serve their ad-seg time. I explained to them that I was already in ad-seg when I started my college courses in Northern State Prison and that I would like to finish my courses and obtain my degree. They said no. That was in September 2010.
I’ve been fighting for the right to continue my college courses and take rehabilitative programs since. I’ve explained to the administration on numerous occasions that I’ve been in ad-seg for over five years and have ten years left. I shouldn’t have to be here this long without schooling, rehabilitation or any other type of help for that matter. I’ve done my best to explain that I really want help. I’ve even sent letters to Commissioner Gary Lanigan, Governor Christopher Christie and other government officials about being denied the right to rehabilitation and education. Still, no progress. They are literally about to make me sit in solitary confinement for fifteen years and do nothing! This is the type of prison environment we are coming home from. What do you honestly expect guys’ minds to be like when they come from this type of setting?
Once again, I have all the necessary documents to back up all of these facts I’m putting out there about this prison system.
Another issue in here is the physical abuse by Correction Officers of the NJDOC. This is basically the reason why I have fifteen years ad-seg and M.C.U. status. This and the fact that they labeled me as a gang leader for the Bloods. I refuse to just stand there and watch physical abuse take place with another prisoner or especially with me. I’ve assaulted many officers in this prison system because they simply have it in their heads that they are just going to physically hurt us, and we will not, or should not, defend ourselves. This prison system is hiding so many incidents where they hurt guys very badly for no reason at all and in some cases they’ve even killed prisoners.
Nonetheless, the incidents aren’t being properly investigated. If they were, it would be known that the officer was dead wrong. I’ve been in incidents with these officers where even after I was handcuffed and restrained, they continued to assault me. They are cowards at heart and brainwashed at mind. It’s just so bad that they have transformed from prison guards into a gang amongst themselves. I will not say that it is all of them because there a lot of them who don’t partake in this behavior but the majority of them are guilty of these actions. As long as this type of behavior is taking place, I will continue to defend innocent brothers and myself. Most of these prison guards are so brainwashed and institutionalized that they start to act like they are locked up too. They do things we do such as collect commissary and make hookups (prison meals). They steal our magazines out of the mail. They pretty much have created an “Us against Them” environment. It’s strange to me because most of the time these officers aren’t even mentally stable. How did they even get the job to begin with?
I argued with an officer in here one day and he literally showed me a knife he had in his possession. He told me that he would definitely use it if I tried him. On one occasion, the officers planted a knife in my cell so they could set me up to get more charges. This indictment took place in 2007 right after the 2007 Rahway Prison riot, which I was involved in. I requested a polygraph test to prove that they planted the knife in my cell and the administrator of this prison at the time sent me a letter denying the polygraph. She said I couldn’t get a polygraph due to my extensive disciplinary background. That doesn’t have anything to do with me wanting to prove to her that I was innocent and her officers were dirty. She knew what it was already and that’s why I was denied. I have all the paperwork to prove this as well.
THE MENTALLY ILL
They even have prisoners in here that are beyond mentally disturbed who are not being treated at all. No medication, no attention- nothing. These guys bang on the doors all day and throw food and feces at people and, in some cases, even assault and murder other prisoners. Still, no help.
I’m literally on the same tier with a guy right now that murdered his cellmate a few years back and does nothing but kick his door, throw things, blow the power out of his socket, and much more. They don’t have him on medication, no programs, nothing! All they did was weld his plug sockets shut so he won’t blow the power out any more and took all his property. Would you consider something like that to help? He’s just one example there are many more just like him.
I’ve seen them carry so many dead prisoners out of here in body bags simply because somebody wasn’t getting the right treatment. Regardless if it was the guy that killed himself or, as it is in most cases, one prisoner killing another. Nonetheless, they rather worry about coming in our cells and taking extra sheets or trashing our cells to make us mad. Most of the officers that are being hired to work here belong in these cages.
This system is so corrupt that it is literally damaging the minds of prisoners and officers more than ever. This is the type of system that the people of New Jersey are contributing their tax dollars towards. The minute this is publicly exploited, I’m sure sure they will deny all of it and make it sound convincing as well. But once again, I have proof for most of it and if these issues are properly investigated, all of what I’m saying will be proved true.
WE ARE HUMANS AND DESERVE TO BE TREATED AS SUCH.
The way this system runs it automatically breeds the mentalities of murderers, hate, thieves, and much more because the only thing being taught in here is negativity.
It has got to the point where they blame everything like the assaults taking place in here and things like that on gang violence. But then deny us the help we need and seek.
THE SYSTEM IS THE ISSUE
Until these issues are taken seriously it will only get worse. There will be no improvement whatsoever.
AND THERE’S MUCH MORE
What I’ve told you in this correspondence isn’t even half of what’s going on in here. I’m just giving you a brief summary of what it’s like to be held prisoner in solitary confinement in New Jersey. Most of what I’ve written in this letter is specifically directed to this prison Trenton (NJ) State Prison, but it also goes for all the other prisons in New Jersey. I’ve been to a few and they are basically the same.
As I’ve said there is much more going on in here, which is being covered up by the people who run the NJDOC. If anyone reading this wants me to further elaborate on other issues, all you have to do is contact me.
Hopefully, someone who cares will read this and take immediate action towards correcting these problems.
Julius Wilson will be 29 years old on December 27, 2012. He is from Newark, NJ– the Weequahic Section– Elizabeth Avenue– The Towers from Renner to Meeker. Many may know him by the nickname “GRIMEY”. A lot may also know him as “JU”.
He’s currently serving a 25-year sentence for a Felony Murder, which he maintains he was wrongfully convicted of, and has been incarcerated since 2002.
Right now he’s in the Management Control Unit (MCU) of Trenton State Prison (NJSP), after having been sentenced to 15-years Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) and permanent M.C.U. The MCU is a 23 & 1 lockdown and long-term isolation unit.
Send light to:
Julius Wilson #509928-541478-C
P.O. Box 861
Trenton, NJ 08625