Nurse fired for speaking out: ‘I am on a mission to stop torture at CDCR’

This was reblogged frm: SF Bay View, Dec. 31st, 2014
by Paul Spector, RN, EMT-P, Capt. U.S. Army Ret.
I’ve been a nurse since 1984, a paramedic firefighter and group home manager before that. My training is in inner city ER nursing. I also do floor, ICU and disaster response. I’ve worked in Tampa, Oakland and San Francisco; I’m a Red Cross volunteer and was a U.S. Army medical officer during Desert Storm. I love dogs, search and rescue, and biking. I am on a mission to stop torture at CDCR.
Charles Graner, made infamous by the photos of torture at the U.S. Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, learned how to torture prisoners at SCI Greene, the prison in Pennsylvania where Mumia Abu-Jamal was held for decades on death row.

Charles Graner, made infamous by the photos of torture at the U.S. Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, learned how to torture prisoners at SCI Greene, the prison in Pennsylvania where Mumia Abu-Jamal was held for decades on death row.
In 2006, I worked at Atascadero State Mental Hospital. I learned that mental illness can be treated. With compassionate, professional care, many returned to loved ones and society. No torture was used, the concept counter to modern medicine.
After transferring to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)-run California Men’s Colony State Prison (CMC) in 2007, I was given a month of training and told that abuse, be it physical, mental or sexual, was not allowed.
Assigned to the Mental Health Crisis Bed (MHCB) unit, I found 80-plus patients suffering torture, sexual abuse and neglect. President Obama would recognize it as torture. The vast majority of victims were Black or Hispanic, all the abusers White.

I am on a mission to stop torture at CDCR.

Cold, dark cells hold captives in isolated sensory deprivation – drugged, sick and in pain. Nurses prevented death only to prolong torment, sometimes for years. The number of patients suffering preventable deaths during “medical treatment” in CDCR facilities may exceed all legal executions nationwide.
Disguised as a mental health ward, it’s a dungeon. Most of the prisoners were naked, all privacy and possessions gone. I now suspect many are also innocent. Cut off from the world, they have no voice. Confined to a small cement box 24 hours a day with no exercise, yard privileges or sunlight, disease, psychological damage and deaths are predictable. No effective medical care is possible in these conditions.
I had never seen intentional harm done to patients in a medical facility. I’ve protected patients from attacks in the past – by criminals, drunken husbands, rival gang members etc., but never law enforcement officers. Having worked in Germany, I know the stigma created by medical professionals who helped run Hitler’s death camps, like Dr. Mengele. Conditions at CMC are strikingly similar.
For years, I couldn’t understand how this could happen in California, in the USA, after Martin Luther King’s message, after electing President Obama. The video of an officer allowed to strangle a Black man to death helped me understand, as did the report on CIA black prisons and other atrocities. It’s like the KKK with badges.

Having worked in Germany, I know the stigma created by medical professionals who helped run Hitler’s death camps, like Dr. Mengele. Conditions at CMC are strikingly similar.

Immune to legal or ethical restraints, a policy of abuse targets minorities. Videoing the attacks at least creates a record. At CDCR, videoing is a criminal offense, cameras searched for, abusers safe, victims isolated, vulnerable and alone.
Autopsies by CDCR doctors never mention torture. Victims can be attacked without concern that it will be reported, recorded or punished. Protected from discovery, abusers don’t need to hide under sheets.
I know this first hand. I tried to report the abuse, from poisoning to attempted murder. Supervisors did nothing. My report to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Meyers was removed from his mail box. Many tried to follow the Nurse Practice Act, requiring us to report abuse. Most lost their jobs immediately, even union reps.

Immune to legal or ethical restraints, a policy of abuse targets minorities. Videoing the attacks at least creates a record. At CDCR, videoing is a criminal offense, cameras searched for, abusers safe, victims isolated, vulnerable and alone.

Abuses at CDCR are so similar to the CIA’s, I now wonder if they were being tested on prisoners. Being isolated in a cold cement room seems a standard, as does the infliction of pain, hopelessness, sexual degradation and threats on the prisoners and punishment for staff refusing to participate. Many CDCR officers have experience in military prisons.
When military grade pepper gas is used, victims experience the pain of being burned alive. Massive poly-drug overdoses induce hallucinations and psychosis. I suspect these, too, will turn out to be CIA techniques. Approximately 20 percent of CIA victims were innocent. My patients have no secrets to divulge, but I suspect many are also innocent.

Abuses at CDCR are so similar to the CIA’s, I now wonder if they were being tested on prisoners.

I treated torture victims from the Gulf States and Africa, now America. Techniques used are designed to break enemy forces, avoiding the Geneva Convention by leaving no marks. Here are a few; some are so degrading I can’t speak of them.
Isolation – considered worse than beatings, rapes and starvation by sufferers like kidnap victim Amanda Knight. In 1829, Quakers used it to force salvation. Then as now, mass insanity and deaths result. The U.N. calls it torture; medical research agrees.
Mind altering drugs – causing terrifying hallucinations, psychosis and suicide are abused, thousands of doses kept in open, uncounted bins.
Stripping victims – of all clothing, bedding and privacy is practiced in China, North Korea and CDCR. Females then verbally ridicule the men, an Abu Ghraib technique.
Substandard care – Baseline needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy) are not met. Patients respond to compassionate, professional care. Sadistic ritual abuse may have value to white supremacists, sociopaths and sadists, but it has no medical, psychological or rehabilitative use. Without sunlight, hope or human contact, suffering replaces modern medicine.
Forced feeding – used in medically necessary situations, it’s bloody, painful and dangerous. As punishment, I feel it’s a form of degrading rape. Attackers all powerful, victims left in pain, violated, penetrated and degraded. One brave U.S. Navy nurse is now on trial for refusing to participate in this torture. He may be in isolation.
Pain – is constant. Besides cement beds, shackles, temperature extremes etc., a chemical weapon, military capsicum, replaces the rack. Attacking neural receptors, patients experience 10 out of 10 agony. It damages lungs, eyes and can be fatal. Naked patients’ genitals are targeted, cries of “I can’t breathe” and “I give up” ignored. Massive volumes of the gas turn cells opaque, the air poisonous, an execution method similar to Hitler’s, whose sick SS leaders are still being hunted down worldwide.
Coating the patient with oil, then a fine powder irritant, a screaming horror jokingly called a “powdered donut” is created. No cleaning of the unit is done, all patients are exposed and fans used for further mass punishment, the powder weapon airborne. Patients have only toilet water for decontamination, an ineffective, unsanitary, degrading policy.
CIA tortures, now too un-American for terrorists, are used against Americans on a mass basis. The CIA calls rectal torture “rectal feeding,” pretending to be medical treatment. CDCR hides dark deeds behind this mask of “medical care.”

The CIA calls rectal torture “rectal feeding,” pretending to be medical treatment. CDCR hides dark deeds behind this mask of “medical care.”

Preventing abuse reports is vital and retaliation swift. Murderers are given addresses of objecting staff, data on their children and their social security numbers, all present in state records. Solicited to do violence, motives are provided, with one RN’s wife suffering permanent injuries. Hate letters circulate widely, some signed, spreading fear and job loss. This concentrates the number of unethical staff, especially supervisors. A “code of silence” is enforced. Graduate nurses learn never to report abuse.
Lindsay Hayes of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives was commissioned by the state. He found CDCR’s practices increased deaths. Prisoners stripped, with no possessions, held in small cells and sleeping on cement floors, he called CDCR’s treatment “punitive” and “anti-therapeutic.” Guards, not medical professionals, controlled the conditions within the cells. Worse, he noted that CDCR employees sometimes  falsified watch logs.
In my case, I saved a group of abandoned patients. The abuser falsified 90-plus watch logs, claiming her absence couldn’t have been seen because I was “sleeping,” costing me my job and pension despite the fact that she was not in the building. She continued work as usual, immune to the “zero tolerance policy.” She withheld lifesaving equipment from a Black man in respiratory arrest, was allowed computer use to look up data on ethical staff etc. Supported by supervisors, she did not work alone.
When caregivers can’t report abuse, patients can be harmed with impunity, racist and sexual abuse open-ended. My attempts to stop the abuse include contacting state and federal authorities; none acted. Both the U.N. and Amnesty International have reports of torture at CDCR but can do nothing.

Preventing abuse reports is vital and retaliation swift. When caregivers can’t report abuse, patients can be harmed with impunity, racist and sexual abuse open-ended.

After my continued reports, CDCR wasted approximately $30 million on a new “treatment” facility at CMC, hiding the dungeon but run by the same folks, some promoted. Supported by billions in tax dollars, reports from inmates and other professionals indicate CDCR is running many such facilities.
Why put minority patients there? Diseases thrive; suicide is endemic. Many told of being framed by law enforcement. One officer in particular, 30 years a state records expert, supported the abusers and refused to stop actions harming both patients and staff. She lied in court and may have impacted thousands of cases, isolation and brain damage hindering victims’ attempts to find justice.
Like Hitler’s “treatment solutions,” nurses must not cooperate. As a nation, it tears us apart. As a state, it wastes billions and will eventually be exposed. As Ferguson shows, racist law enforcement is no longer a welcome standard in America.
I noted events (often called footprints) common to sociopaths, like inflicting cruel and unusual physical and psychological torture, “suicides” and clever deceptions. High functioning sociopaths can leave a trail of injuries and deaths with no obvious perpetrator. Charles Manson would approve.

Like Hitler’s “treatment solutions,” nurses must not cooperate. As a nation, it tears us apart. As a state, it wastes billions and will eventually be exposed. As Ferguson shows, racist law enforcement is no longer a welcome standard in America.

Isolation removes the victim’s voice, screams unheard. Like Amanda Knight, chained to a wall, surrender is not an option. Sociopaths love tormenting helpless captives, often children, the retarded and mentally ill – a euphoric, sexual need escalating over time. Racists profess to torment only minorities. Both would feel at home in CDCR.
Some victims are my fellow veterans and, innocent or not, Black or White, all need rescue now.
This is dedicated to Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury Jr., Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Michael Brown … teardrops of death in an ocean of legalized hate.
“I believe it … to be cruel and wrong … I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.” – Charles Dickens, after visiting prisoners in isolation at Eastern State Prison.
Paul Spector, who can be reached at stopcdcrpt.abuse @ gmail.com, goes more deeply into the topics introduced here in an interview by Minister of Information JR that will be published soon online and in the February Bay View.

New hunger strike: Petition for improved conditions in Administrative Segregation Unit at Corcoran State Prison

This is a petition to those in power, not yet signable for us, but if someone posts it on a petition page, we’re sure it will reach a lot of people who agree.

Posted On December 30, 2011 in SF Bay View

by Pyung Hwa Ryoo, Juan Jaimes and William E. Brown

(Written Dec. 19, 2011) To: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Director Matthew Cate, P.O. Box 942883, Sacramento, CA 94283-0001, and Chief Deputy Warden C. Gipson, Corcoran State Prison, P.O. Box 8800, Corcoran, CA 93212

Mr. Cate and Mrs. Gipson:

We, inmates currently housed in Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) of CSP (California State Prison) Corcoran, hereby petition California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Director Matthew Cate and Corcoran State Prison Chief Deputy Warden C. Gipson for the redress and reform of current inhumane conditions we are subjected to which violate our constitutional rights.

Furthermore, this petition will serve as a constructive notice for the peaceful protest which will be carried out as an alternative means of petition in the event that our conditions and demands are not met in a timely manner. [A notation on the cover letter to this petition says the hunger strike started Dec. 28, 2011.]

Petitioners have attempted to address the issues brought up in this petition by filing numerous inmate appeals and grievances and requests for interviews to no avail. Our constitutional rights under the First, Fifth and 14th Amendments are being violated by CDCR and CSP Corcoran officials and therefore we demand the following:
Demand No. 1: THAT INMATES HERE IN ASU BE ALLOWED TO POSSESS TVs AND/OR RADIOS

We are daily being subjected to sensory deprivation which imposes a substantial risk of serious harm to our mental health. As established in numerous scientific studies, prolonged subjection to sensory deprivation has serious adverse effects to one’s mental health. We are subjected to these conditions for months and even years. Our numerous attempts to address this problem by filing 602s are being shut down. The officials are acting with deliberate indifference to our health and well-being, and our Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment is being violated.

Although mandated by a court order to allow inmates in ASUs to possess an entertainment appliance, CSP Corcoran officials refuse to do so citing a memorandum dated Dec. 15, 2008, that permanently exempts a number of prisons, including CSP Corcoran, from having to comply with the court’s mandates due to their “current fiscal situation and costs to retrofit housing units.” This policy is illegal, for our constitutional rights must be protected regardless of CSP Corcoran’s financial problems or the costs to make necessary installations to protect those rights.

Also, the aforementioned exemption memo states that CSP Corcoran is permanently exempt from allowing the use of entertainment appliances in the ASU. The only explanation provided on how and why this prison is exempt is a brief mention of the current fiscal situation of the prison. There is no mention of any follow-ups in a set period of time – e.g., every six months – in which the prison’s budget will be reviewed by the Division of Adult Institutions to see whether the prison still qualifies for the category that justifies exemption.

In other words, once a prison “passes the test” by showing that they currently cannot afford the costs to retrofit the housing units and get accepted in the “exemption list,” that prison is permanently exempt regardless of their financial situation in the future. This exemption policy is clearly unreasonable, and we assert that this policy is merely used as a loophole to get around the court’s mandates to allow us our entertainment appliances.

Furthermore, the exemption memo cannot apply to us because there is no extensive retrofitting required for giving us our radios. The electric outlets are in place and the radios merely need to be distributed and plugged in to work.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) CSP Corcoran officials immediately allow us to possess and/or stipulate to allow us to possess our TVs within two months.

B) CSP Corcoran officials make the necessary installations and/or stipulations needed to allow us to possess our TVs within two months.
Demand No. 2: THAT WE ARE PROVIDED ACCESS TO AN ADEQUATE LAW LIBRARY AND/OR LEGAL ASSISTANCE

The ASU law library is inadequate. Its contents do not comply with CCR (California Code of Regulations) Title 15 §3121 and DOM (Department Operations Manual) §53060.11. There is only one computer that contains the only essential law books in the law library, which is supposed to be shared by 200 inmates. This results in unreasonable delays with inmates not being able to sufficiently access the law library.
There is only one computer that contains the only essential law books in the law library, which is supposed to be shared by 200 inmates.

Furthermore, there is no copy machine in the ASU law library. All our legal copies are therefore forwarded to the 4A facility law library for copying. This results in delays of days or even weeks for us to receive our copies back. Also, there have been instances where our copies have been lost resulting from this unreliable practice.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) CSP Corcoran officials allow us access to an adequate law library and reasonable amount of time to use such law library by: 1) Ordering and replacing all current law books listed in CCR Title 15 §3121 and DOM §53060.11 which are missing from the ASU law libraries contents, or 2) Installing three more computers that contain essential law books for inmate use, or 3) Providing us with adequate legal assistance from persons trained in the law.

B) CSP Corcoran officials install a copy machine in the ASU law library for its use for legal copies and all essential legal supplies be kept in stock.
Demand No. 3: THAT INMATES NOT BE FURTHER PUNISHED UPON COMPLETION OF THEIR SHU TERMS

Inmates are being placed in the ASU after the completion of their SHU terms supposedly “pending transfer.” These inmates are then stuck here for four, five months, in many instances even longer, before finally being transferred to general population. This practice of illegally placing inmates in ASU upon the completion of their SHU terms for long periods of time without proper procedure and with excessive delays on their transfers is resulting in unjustified punishment for these inmates.

Furthermore, inmates undergoing the DRB (Departmental Review Board) process after the completion of their SHU terms are being held in ASU for months and even years while the counselors and committee ignore their repeated requests for a timely hearing on their case. This is in blatant violation of their procedural due process rights.

Inmates undergoing the DRB (Departmental Review Board) process after the completion of their SHU terms are being held in ASU for months and even years while the counselors and committee ignore their repeated requests for a timely hearing on their case.

The inmates submit numerous inmate requests to ASU counselors regarding the delays on their transfers and/or DRB process, but those inmate requests are not being responded to and are being ignored. The counselors are not doing their jobs because of their incompetence and/or negligence; we are suffering these undue delays explained above.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) The counselors here in ASU do not unreasonably delay inmates’ transfers and DRB process and respond to inmate requests in a timely manner.

B) Inmates who are placed in ASU after the completition of their SHU terms be afforded the same privileges as those inmates who are classified as A2-B inmates, which includes but is not limited to quarterly packages, one phone call per month and $120 monthly canteen draws.
Demand No.4: THAT WE BE AFFORDED ADEQUATE AND TIMELY MEDICAL CARE

Medical staff here in ASU unjustifiably delays medical attention and denies proper medical treatment for inmates. Although required by the court’s order in Coleman/Plata v. Schwarzenegger to provide us with adequate medical care, which the CDCR has failed to provide before, CSP Corcoran’s medical department is not in compliance with the court’s mandates. We are suffering violations to our Eighth Amendment rights daily for lack of adequate medical care, and our health and well-being are severely jeopardized.

Furthermore, we are having difficulties pursuing timely medical appeals and grievances. The medical appeals coordinators do not follow time requirements set forth in CCR Title 15 §3084.6 and there are substantial delays on getting responses for our appeals.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) Inmates be provided with timely medical attention upon request and provided with adequate medical care as mandated by the court in Coleman/Plata v. Schwarzenegger.

B) Medical appeals be promptly responded to pursuant to CCR Title 15 §3084.6.
Demand No. 5: THAT WE BE AFFORDED DUE PROCESS IN OUR 115 HEARINGS

We are being placed in ASU and sentenced to SHU terms without being afforded due process of law. The hearing officers automatically find inmates guilty regardless of the sufficiency or insufficiency of the evidence, and their biased perspectives and opinions go unchallenged.

Although the hearing officers are acting as lawyers and/or triers of fact in 115 hearings on the question of guilt, clearly under the guidelines of established case law concerning due process, they are not required to be trained in the law nor registered with the State Bar.

Resulting from their lack of knowledge and competence in this matter, frivolous and false charges not supported by any reliable evidence, which would be thrown out in a court of law, are being upheld and imposed on us. This violates our 14th Amendment rights to due process.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) Hearing officers be required to follow guidelines established by the courts concerning due process, burden of proof and sufficiency of evidence when conducting 115 hearings.

B) Hearing officers be trained in the law so they may be deemed competent to carry out the duty of a trier of fact in 115 hearings.
Demand No. 6: THAT WE BE ALLOWED PHONE ACCESS

Inmates placed in ASU are not allowed access to phones. The only way we are allowed to maintain family and community ties are by writing letters and receiving visits. Not all of us are literate, and not all of us get visits. So the denial of phone access is depriving many of us of the only way to keep in contact with our families and loved ones.
The denial of phone access is depriving many of us of the only way to keep in contact with our families and loved ones.

Furthermore, those of us currently litigating cases who need access to the phone to contact witnesses, private investigators, attorneys, courtroom clerks etc. are not allowed phone access. This results in an impingement on our First Amendment rights to access to the courts.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) Inmates in ASU be allowed one phone call a month on an inmate telephone pursuant to CCR Title 15 §3282(a)(3).

B) Inmates in ASU be allowed confidential calls pursuant to CCR Title 15 §3282(g).
Demand No. 7: THAT WE BE PROVIDED WITH ADEQUATE LAUNDRY EXCHANGE

We are being denied adequate laundry exchange. There are weeks where laundry exchange is not run; most of the time during laundry exchange they are short on pillow cases, sheets and towels; and we are only allowed to turn in one of each item for laundry exchange. This clearly is not in accordance with CCR Title 15 §3031(b).

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) We be provided with a weekly laundry exchange pursuant to CCR Title 15 §3031(b).
Demand No. 8: THAT OUR CANTEEN FOOD ITEMS BE GIVEN TO US IN THEIR PACKAGING

Our canteen is being opened and food items – such as rice, soups, cookies, chips, beans, etc. – are being placed in paper bags before they’re given to us. This attracts ants and insects that go into the bags containing food and thereby pose a serious health risk. Furthermore, the food becomes stale and inedible after a few days due to the food being placed in paper bags.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) Inmates be allowed to keep their canteen items in the plastic bags they come in and/or be allowed to purchase zip lock plastic bags from the canteen to place the food in.
Demand No. 9: THAT WE BE AFFORDED EDUCATIONAL AND REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS AND/OR OPPORTUNITIES

Inmates in ASU are not allowed any educational and/or rehabilitative programs and/or opportunities. There is no school; we are not allowed to receive any form of correspondence course for lack of proctors, those of us who wish to learn a trade are not able to and those of us who wish to better ourselves to be better individuals of benefit to our society and other citizens are not given that chance.
Inmates in ASU are not allowed any educational and/or rehabilitative programs and/or opportunities.

Furthermore, we are currently not allowed TVs, so we are not able to partake in educational opportunities by watching educational channels or programs or participating in educational programs that are provided by the institution on the institutional channels.

This contradicts what CDCR supposedly stands for, which is to make the communities safer and rehabilitate our prisoners. We wish to better ourselves by participating in educational and/or rehabilitative programs, but we are denied this right.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) We are afforded educational programs such as correspondence courses, proctored exams, vocational courses etc.

B) We are afforded rehabilitative programs in self-help, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous etc.

C) We be allowed to possess our TVs for educational purposes such as to partake in educational opportunities provided by the institutional as well as educational channels.
Demand No. 10: THAT WE RECEIVE THE SAME PRIVILEGES AS SHU INMATES

The inmates housed in the SHU are allowed certain privileges and items from canteen and packages that we are not allowed. These privileges include but are not limited to TVs; educational courses; beanies, sweats and shoes from package; photo ducats; and art supplies from canteen such as colored pens, pastels and sketch pads. Furthermore, SHU inmates are allowed exercise equipment in the yard cages, such as pull-up and dip bars.

Inmates housed here in ASU are D1/D assigned, same as the SHU inmates. Most of us are stuck in this ASU for months and even years. The fact that we currently are not afforded the same rights and privileges as SHU inmates violates our equal protection rights.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) We be afforded the same rights, privileges, items and programs as are afforded to inmates in the SHU
Demand No. 11: THAT NO REPRISALS BE TAKEN FOR THE EMPLOYMENT OF OUR RIGHT TO PETITION

We are exercising our legal right to petition in participating in a peaceful protest. This right is protected by the United States Constitution and thereby any sanctions and/or reprisals placed on us for the reason stated above is illegal and a violation of our rights.

THEREFORE, WE DEMAND THAT:

A) No reprisals be taken on petitioners in any form or manner for the exercise of our right to petition.

Conclusion

We petitioners are not deprived of our constitutional rights simply because we are incarcerated behind these prison walls. We are bound by the Constitution of the United States, and therefore its protection extends to us as well. These rights have been violated and disregarded by CDCR and CSP Corcoran officials and therefore petitioners, with the support of members of their class, hereby come together to demand the redress and remedies that have been long overdue.
We are bound by the Constitution of the United States, and therefore its protection extends to us as well.

Petitioners pray that this petition and the issues addressed herein are remedied and the relief sought in each demand granted.

Pyung Hwa Ryoo, F-88924, Corcoran State Prison, ASU 1-167, P.O. Box 3456, Corcoran, CA 93212

Juan Jaimes, V-08644, Corcoran State Prison, ASU 1-165, P.O. Box 3456, Corcoran, CA 93212

William E. Brown, T-58106, Corcoran State Prison, ASU 1-169, P.O. Box 3456, Corcoran, CA 93212

This petition was sent to S. Vargas to be forwarded to the Bay View. It was typed by Kendra Castaneda. Readers are urged to write to these brothers on hunger strike.

New report details systematic torture and abuse of prisoners in Pennsylvania State Prison

From: Human Rights Coalition-Fed Up! Chapter

RELEASE: New report details systematic torture and abuse of prisoners in Pennsylvania State Prison

Contact: Amanda Johnson – hrcfedup@gmail.com – (716) 238-4089

April 25, 2011 – After a year-long investigation, the Human Rights Coalition has issued a report on the conditions of incarceration for people in the solitary confinement units at the State Correctional Institution in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. The report, Unity and Courage, examines discriminatory practices of the PA Department of Corrections and portrays the efforts of a group of prisoners engaging in nonviolent and peaceful protest to demand their basic human rights.

Unity and Courage documents a culture of abuse fostered by prison staff, characterized by the excessive use of force, assaults by officers, use of racial slurs, forced cell extractions, chemical gassing, destruction of legal paperwork, torture devices, and deprivation of food and water. The Human Rights Coalition began its investigation of the use of solitary confinement at Huntingdon in December 2009, when a prisoner committed suicide after being denied mental health treatment by prison staff.

Prisoners began an organized campaign of resistance in September of 2010, by refusing to come in from the exercise yard until they could speak with public officials about their treatment. Correctional officers wheeled out canisters of chemical spray, hosing the prisoners down until they would comply with orders to be handcuffed and returned to their cells, where they were denied showers and medical attention for days. Some were put in isolation cells and had to sleep naked on concrete slabs.

Approximately 2,500 men and women are housed in solitary confinement units across the state. They are in small, brightly lit cells 23 hours a day, with little or no ability to communicate with family, and no access to educational and rehabilitative programming. At Huntingdon, solitary confinement prisoners are dependent on correctional officers to receive food, have access to showers, exercise and law library, and to exchange ingoing and outgoing mail. With severe restrictions on outside contact and a Departmhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifent of Corrections abuse monitoring system that is shielded from external scrutiny, policies and practices of systemic abuse at the prison go unchecked at the cost of prisoners’ health and lives.

“Their goal is to stop us from speaking out against them,” wrote Huntingdon protester Kyle Klein, “but it will never work, not a chance in hell, or the hell we are in. Even when winning is impossible, quitting is far from optional.”

Contact info of public officials who received advance copies of Unity and Courage