A Rubber Band and a Paperclip

We received this from Nevada-Cure:

By Gilbert Paliotta

I’ll start from where things went bad for me…. In 1998, Ely State Prison Administration housed me in a cell with a known “Gang Enforcer” (that’s how he was listed in their files) who was recently transferred to this prison from another one due to his numerous assaults and batteries on other inmates. A week before they housed me with this guy, he had been released from the “hole” (punitive segregation) for cracking open the head of his last cellmate with a metal hotpot and ripping his eyeball out of its socket.

Administration moved me in the cell with this guy; and, to save you from the gory details, a fight ensued and he lost his life.

Did I mention that he was over six feet tall and a solid two hundred pounds and that I am only five nine and one seventy? That up until 1998 I was labeled as a “ model inmate” (nothing to brag about but it’s better than being labeled a “Gang Enforcer”)? That ESP administration had prior knowledge revealed by the sheriff’s office that this guy was ordered to “hit” (kill) his last cellmate and yet they continued to cell me up with this guy?

I was found guilty of murdering my cellmate even though it was clearly self-defense. In my prison disciplinary hearing I remained silent because I was facing criminal charges by the State of Nevada, but the disciplinary committee simply found me “guilty” without allowing me to defend against allegations, sentenced me to the maximum penalty in punitive segregation and illegally placed me on “high risk potential” (HRP) status, the most extreme and restrictive status an inmate can possibly be placed on, even worse than death row, not an accusation but a proven fact.

The warden at the time (McDaniel) left me on the HRP status until 2005, long after my punitive segregation sentence had expired, ignoring my repeated attempts to be taken off said status and sent back to the general population. He stated he would not take me off HRP status until he considered me “no longer a threat to staff and inmates”.

In 2005, Warden McDaniels finally removed me from HRP status but did not send me back to the general population. He told me to give him six months. It’s now 2012 and I’m still not back in general population.

They keep me on “administrative segregation” under the guise of “safety security” reasons, which is a contradiction or the warden would not have taken me off HRP in 2005.

During this time I filed a Civil Rights complaint (or rather I tried to) regarding the prison holding me hostage all of these years in segregation, it was dismissed. Had I had some help, that would not have happened. I had them dead to rights on that lawsuit.

Since they continue to keep me segregated when they have released other inmates who have been found guilty of murder of another inmate back to general population, I am beginning the steps of filing another separate complaint. This one will be from the date my prior lawsuit was dismissed.

And it gets worse…Physical abuse as retaliation

Administration didn’t like that I filed a lawsuit against them. In 2008, the guards assaulted me while I was handcuffed and had leg restraints on. Two days later, they assaulted me again while I was handcuffed and restrained. Of course, they twisted it up saying it was the other way around but how does a person attack two guards while he’s in full restraints?

In 2009-10 I was engaged to be married and was receiving visits every three months from my fiancée’ who traveled all the way from England.

Again, administration disrupted my life as I knew it. That lawsuit! After one of my visits with my (now) ex-fiancee, they said they found a pair of panties on prison grounds and that she gave them to me. This is major. I was strip searched three times before and after visits by five different guards and at no time was a pair of panties or any contraband for that matter ever found in my possession or on my person. During my disciplinary hearing (they charged me with possession of contraband’ for these alleged panties I allegedly received from my fiancée). I requested numerous witnesses, who all told me that they would testify on my behalf, and the video surveillance from the visiting room on the date of my fiancée’s visit to be introduced as evidence. The sergeant and lieutenant who handled this disciplinary hearing flat out refused to call any of the witnesses (all of whom were ESP staff) and refused to introduce the video surveillance.

They found me guilty of “possession of contraband”, sentenced me to a year punitive segregation and took my visiting privileges for one year.

I now have a civil action pending in federal court that is at the summary judgment phase.

In the process I lost my fiancée because she’s terrified to come back, thinking next time they will do something else worse to her.

My family members are hesitant to visit me for those same reasons.

Allow me to back pedal in time.

Eleven days after my last visit with my ex-fiancée (Michele), a pair of panties was again found on prison grounds!! The sergeant sent guards to my cell, strip-searched me and tore my cell apart, breaking items of my property in the process.

Get this, I was nowhere near where the pair of panties was found nor was I even outside. In fact, I had not even gone outside my cell since they lied about the first pair!

All of this is documented in the lawsuit and can be proven.

Also, during my disciplinary hearing (which is recorded) the lieutenant even stated, “No one is accusing you of being in possession of contraband.” He still found me guilty.

I’m waiting to see what the repercussions are going to be for filing this lawsuit I have now in federal court.

Maybe I just don’t care no more. After losing my fiancée I silently pray someone puts me out of my misery because I am in the process of writing a separate civil action in state court challenging the prison administrations lack of institutional protection of the laws in regards to religious practices: not allowing inmates to freely practice their religion.

I’ve been through the riots; I’ve fought administration both physically and on paper. It is impossible to do this alone. All I have is a rubber band and a paper clip.

I read these so-called prisoner support groups articles about how they fight for us, stand with us , etc. I find that to be carrots on a stick. To be honest, I don’t think they even exist. What “help” or “support” have they given to us? Nobody I know has benefited from their services.

I am not accusing you of anything, I don’t know you.

It’s just that I’m so fed up with of this. Losing someone you genuinely love because of the actions of someone else is crushing.

Have you lost a loved one or had an engagement called off? I sincerely hope that you haven’t nor ever have to experience that, but, if you have, multiply that by a dozen, topped off with the loss of seeing your family members as well.

Michele and I overcame major obstacles, living in different countries, me in prison, us being different nationalities and personalities among other things. Now imagine all of that being destroyed because ESP administration wanted to destroy the last bit of happiness I had in life.

I try to better myself each everyday both mentally and physically by reading everything I possibly can and maintaining a workout routine. I share whatever knowledge I have with anyone that asks but I’m limited. I cannot reach beyond these prison walls without support.

No one thinks they will ever be in such a position as I am in, but if it can happen to me, if can happen to someone you love. Please support prisoners in their fight for justice and fairness.

Gilbert Paliotta #46244
ESP
P.O. Box 1989,
Ely, NV 89301

“That’s not a bedmove sheet, that’s a death warrant”: A real life look into murder, negligence and callousness at Ely State Prison

An exposé by: Douglas Potter

I am a convicted murderer. Convicted of a murder that occurred here in Ely State prison (ESP). This is my first time at trying to pen an article like this so bear with me, but what I have to say will be truly mind-blowing to many who read what I am about to reveal and thou it may boggle the Public’s brain, unfortunately the reality is that this is just another occurrence that has become common, if not every day life, to many who have spent more than a couple of years in this sickening world of madness and despair.
Even though prisoners are generally discarded by society and are sometimes even looked down on as “low lives” and “garbage”, I still believe that there are people out there who care, people who have loved ones inside and who want to know the truth of what really goes on in here, no matter how brutal that truth may be.

There are several things that have compelled me to write this article, one of those was after reading a truthful and descriptive article by another prisoner about what has been referred to as: The “Bloody Sunday” Incident, by Coyote Sheff. It is something I can attest to because it was something that I, myself, was involved in. I was there that day. (see attachment 1A: Inmate Grievance Report, log # 2006-28-92302, dated: February 4, 2010. See also: Solidarity and Struggle: more on the Jan. 31st Riot at Ely State Prison, by Coyote Sheff, in: http://sfbayview.com/2010/solidarity-and-struggle-more-on-the-jan-31-riot-at-ely-state-prison/ and on: http://nevadaprisonwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/solidarity-and-struggle-more-on-esp-jan.html).

It brought back a lot of thoughts and feelings that I have since purposely pushed from my mind so as to forget about them, but this is not a story about that incident, but a story of an even more brutal and monstrous nature. A story about another Dark and Bloody morning that ended in death. This is a story that needs to be told so that everyone can know and understand the events that led up to my victim’s death. So that the public can be aware of the negligence, incompetence, and callousness that has become a common theme in this world of defined darkness at Ely State Prison.
Before I get to the facts of this murder, first let me say this, in the article about the “Bloody Sunday” Incident, Coyote Sheff mentions a few things in particular that really stood out to me and which I will also touch upon in this article as it pertains to my story in more ways than you could possibly understand. Those particular things that were mentioned in Sheff’s article are: 1) The Indictment and trial of the Aryan Warriors. 2) The Indeterminate Lockdown of ESP inmates. 3) The forcing of cellmates upon inmates.

There may be readers out there who doubt the truth and credibility in Coyote’s articles – you may even feel the same way about what I have to say – and even though I know what Coyote says is the truth, without actual proof and documentation there is always going to be individuals out there who disbelieve, discredit, or disagree. But where Coyote has failed to back his words up with proof, I will not fail in that regard. Everything I tell you will be backed up with the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC)’s own paperwork as documentation. “It’s not what you know, but what you can prove.” And know this: ESP fought tooth and nail for nearly two (2) years to try and keep these documents that you are about to see from being released through Discovery in a Court of Law.

The things that I cannot prove, I will leave out. I will only discuss and reveal that which I can support with their own words, documents, and signatures so that no one has to take my word for it; so that you can see for yourselves and make up your own mind. So that no “Localboy 76’s” can try to come along and attempt to divert the truth with a broad blanket of how “You can’t believe these disgruntled, whiney, inmates…”

I want everyone to know that I make no excuses for my actions. I only attempt to explain factors and circumstances that had a direct bearing and impact on my choices, so that people can understand the who, where’s, ways. I take full responsibility for the stabbing and death of Anthony Beltran. I accept the consequences and punishment that was handed down to me in a court of law. No appeals have been filed in my case. For those actions that I am innocent of, I will never take responsibility or accept punishment for them (you know who you are, and so do others).

I have been called a coward by some, but even if that is true, at least this coward can stand and take responsibility for what I have done, which is more than anyone will ever see or hear from those uniformed cowards here at ESP who hide behind their paper badges, razor-wired fences, lying and covering up the truth of that day in their safe little self-created environment. It is not what you know, but what you can prove and whether this specific case, January 31st Bloody Sunday, or the countless other use of force incidents within these walls, when all of the witnesses are you, and you control all of the evidence, then you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as everyone keeps their mouth shut and sticks to the same story. It is the same regardless of incident, the one common denominator among ESP staff and how they get away with so much.

Unfortunately, as is more often the case, most incidents are brushed aside, investigated with tunnel vision and protecting the prison and its staff from liability at the back of everyone’s mind. My story is about such a case, a case that wasn’t so much about the truth as it was the state manouvering to protect themselves from as much of it as they could. No one within the NDOC or within the ESP administration taking responsibility for their actions, the actions of their staff, and the fact that two (2) different inmates at Nevada’s most notorious maximum security lock up (ESP) should have never crossed paths, let alone be locked into a cell together. Ely State Prison can be described as a place where prisoners are paced to be warehoused, a place where prisoners are placed to be punished and to suffer, and in this case, a place where a certain prisoner was placed to die. A death that easily could have and should have been prevented.

1.
My name is Douglas Potter, #66313, I am known to be a violent gang member with a history of NDOC assaults and stabbings (see attachment 1: NDOC – Disciplinary History Report).

I entered the NDOC in August of 2000 after being convicted of two (2) counts of armed robbery with use of a deadly weapon (see: attachment 2 NDOC / ESP #66313 cover sheet with photo).

After passing through the Northern Nevada Correctional Center (NNCC, in Carson City) intake I was placed onto the NNCC main yard where in 2001 I was suspected of stabbing another inmate in the throat and other security threat group activities (see attachment 3: NDOC / NNCC Investigation Informative, dated: Sept. 2001).

As a direct result of this assault, I was transferred from NNCC to the Nevada State Prison (NSP) in Carson City, where in 2002, I assaulted and severely beat my cellmate to the extent that the services of Carson-Tahoe Hospital, Washoe Medical Center, and care-flight were needed. I was charged, convicted, and an additional 1 to 6 years were added to my sentence (see attachment 1: NDOC Disciplinary History Report; Incident ID # 16148).

While serving hole time at NSP for this assault, my mental health deteriorated to the point that in April 2005, I was transferred to the mental health unit at NNCC where I was placed on anti-psychotic medication, returned to NSP, and then transferred to Ely State Prison (ESP) where I remained in the hole on psychotropics until Nov. 2003 (see attachment 4: NNCC Mental Health Unit Chrono, dated 4/10/03. Also, attachment 5: Release / Refusal to take medication dated 11/15/03).

After completing my hole time I was classified to General Population and assigned a cellmate. I was placed in the workers unit and given a job in the ESP kitchen where, in 2005, I assaulted and repeatedly stabbed another Inmate Worker with a meat carving fork and I was given two (2) years in the hole. (see attachment 1: NDOC – Disciplinary History Report; Incident ID # 55156).

It is the position and the policy of the ESP Administration and staff that in order to be considered a “Positively Programming” Inmate, you are required to double-cell. That if you ever expect to move anywhere, and to receive more privileges within ESP, then you must double-cell or risk being severely punished to the fullest extent (see attachment 6: I.P. 5.13 Inmate housing /cell assignments. Also: attachment 7: AWP Adam Endel memo: “To all inmates”/double-celling, dated: Sept. 2006).

Ely State Prison
For those not familiar with ESP, it is essentially a human warehouse. A maximum security prison which houses approx. 1,100 inmates of various custody and classification levels. With the exception of a small worker unit, the entire prison is confined to their cells, locked down 24/7 with inmates being allowed to use an enclosed recreation pen for one (1) hour a day and the use of a shower once every three (3) days when staff availability permits. The prison is divided into two (2) sides or phases.
Phase II houses General Population Inmates and Phase I houses Disciplinary Segregation (Dis. Seg.) and Administrative Segregation (Ad. Seg.) Inmates, with the only difference between the 3 classification levels being the amount of privileges you are allowed, i.e.: food, clothing, hygiene supplies, property, phone calls, visits, etc… “General Population” receiving the most, while Ad. Seg. less, with Dis. Seg. inmates being stripped of all such items with the exception of bare constitutional minimums allowed by law.

In 2005, under pressure to double cell in the hole and the threat of severe sanctions to be imposed if I didn’t, I double-celled to avoid such conditions and indefinite placement in Dis.Seg. and/or Ad.Seg. Because of such fears, unit caseworkers became empowered with a “fuck you”-type arrogant, callous, if not hateful, kind of attitude which directly came to bear on me when I tried to address the concerns I had with the compatibility of any future cellmates, and the stressful issues I was having concerning such a double-cell environment. I tried to address such issues verbally with my unit caseworker, ccwsII R. Chambliss, to the point of frustration and anger, and eventually in writing to both him and ccwsII Drain (see attachment 8, 9, 10: three (3) kites to Chambliss and Drain with responses).

As a direct result of such, I was written up and punished for my actions. (see attachment 1: NDOC Disc History Report; Incident ID #9454).

2.
With ESP classification and unit caseworkers fully aware of my past history of violence, inmate on inmate assaults, and concerns/”threats” regarding cellmate compatibility, ESP staff continued to double-cell me with other inmates. On March of 2006, the Office of the Inspector general (I.G.) validated me as belonging to the Security Threat Group (STG) “Aryan Warriors” (AW), with caseworker Chambliss documenting such within the NDOC computer system (see attachment 11: NDOC-offender Information Notes; entry date: 3/24/2006).

3.
In August of 2006, after completing my hole time for the ESP kitchen stabbing, Associate Warden of Programs (AWP) A. Endel immediately cleared me for movement and double-celling in Phase II, General Population (see attachment 11: NDOC-offender information summary case notes; entry date: 8/31/2006). Approximately two (2) weeks later I was then moved to General Population and housed in Unit 5, A-side, cell #30 (5-A-30), where for the next three (3) months I had four (4) different cellmates (see attachment 11: NDOC-offender information summary/case notes dated: 9/8/2006). Inmate Anthony Beltran #89304 being my last cellmate.

4.
I had just finished almost two (2) years in the hole. I was hesitant, fearful, of addressing my double-celling/compatibility concerns. I did not want to go back. AWP Adam Endel’s memo to all inmates was posted in the Unit 5 Sally Port (see attachment 7: AWP A. Endel double-celling memo dated: Sept. 7, 2006). My father was thinking about coming to visit, I wanted to call home. So I bit my tongue and fought with myself to live in a concrete box and having someone in my face every time I turned around.

5.
Upon my arrival in Unit 5, I had repeatedly requested approval to be moved to an open unit, the Workers Unit (Unit 8). My requests went unanswered and after my 1st and 2nd cellmates had been cleared for movement to Unit 8, around November 2006, C.E.R.T. Sgt. R. Otero came to my cell-door and informed me for Institutional Safety and Security Reasons, and my stabbing gin the culinary, that I was going to stay where I was at, that he couldn’t put me in the Culinary and sure as hell wasn’t about to give me a shovel or rake on Yard Labor. That my request was denied. (see attachment 12: K. Weiss memo to Warden McDaniel, dated 1/2/2007).

After my 2nd cellmate had been cleared to move out, I began to plan for my 3rd cellmate. On occasion, inmates can submit requests to move in together to ensure compatibility due to our long periods of lockdown, sometimes for years on end. Avoid the “roll of the dice” on a caseworker-initiated bedmove. So as required by IP 5.13, my 3rd cellmate and I submitted kites requesting to live together and when my 2nd cellmate moved out on Dec. 12th, 2006, we moved in together that same day. (see attachment 13: Kite to Mrs Weiss dated 12/7/06/ Also: attachment 6: OP/IP 5.13 Housing Cell Assignments).

Seven (7) days later on December 19, 2006, caseworker Weiss came to my cell-door telling me that she was going to move me into cell#31 with Beltran, that she had already put in the bedmove sheet, and asked if I would fill out a kite requesting to move in with him. She also asked the same of Beltran. I don’t know what he said, but I told her “fuck no” or “hell no,” I’m not sure which and we then argued. She left saying she was sorry, that she already put it in. (see attachment 14: Cell Assignment Form dated: 12-9-06).

The next day, on Dec. 20th, 2006, custody staff told me to pack my shit, that I was moving next door into cell #31. I requested and spoke to caseworker Weiss where I complained aggressively and bitterly and finally convinced her to at least try and postpone the bedmove until my cellmate actually moved out. She went into her office and called someone, I don’t know who, but she came back out a short time later and was upset. Said that she just got her ass chewed out, that she was sorry and there was nothing she could do and she left. (note: I have no phone records from the Unit 5 caseworkers’ office, but they do exist. All phone calls made are logged and tracked from prison phones).

For ccwsII (caseworker) Kay Weiss to at a later date claim that no-one “complained of compatibility…” is an outright lie. (see attachment 12: Weiss memo to warden McDaniel dated: 1/2/2007).

There are two (2) kinds of bedmoves, caseworker-initiated and inmates requested. The latter requiring both inmates to submit written requests. In inmate Beltran’s institutional file (I-File) or my I-File, there is no record of any such requests being made by Beltran or myself. Yet. On the cell assignment form, in the top right-hand corner, someone has made it to appear that we did agree by scratching out: “ccws RX”(RX = transfer) and writing in: “Inmates agree.”(see attachment 14: Cell Assignment Form dated 12/19/06).

An outright lie and attempt to cover up and protect staff from any responsibility and liability for negligence placing a prison gang member and sex offender into the same cell.

As an inmate I don’t have the luxury of choice, and within a prison environment, what choices I do have is between the lesser of two evils as we are all at the mercy of staff and their decisions. I go where I am told and do what they tell me to do or I can take my ass to the hole and go sit stripped out in a concrete box. Those were my options. My “choices” as well as Beltran’s.

So when they came for me an hour later, rather than refuse and fight, I moved into 5-A-#31 with Anthony Beltran, who several days later, turned out to be a convicted sex offender x8 (see attachment 15: NDOC/ESP #89304 coversheet with photo).

And that is how my path came to cross with that of Beltran’s. How his path came to cross mine is similar, but shorter, and never should have happened.

6.
Anthony Beltran entered the NDOC through the High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in January of 2006 after being convicted of first degree kidnapping, robbery & multiple counts of sexual assault (see attachment 15: NDOC/ESP 89304 coversheet with photo). After passing through intake at HDSP he remained in ad-seg due to his sentence stature, nature of crime, and that he was accused of being involved in a plot to harm a county jail officer, which did not endear him to prison staff who promptly “validated” him as a “Security Threat Group” (STG) and scheduled transfer to ESP to be housed (see attachment 16: chrono entries for Beltran dated: 5-18-2009).

On 10/24/2006 Beltran was moved to the workers unit, units, where he remained for approximately three (3) weeks before being transferred to the ESP Infirmary on 11/19/2006. From what appears to be the continued denial of medical treatment by ESP staff and his inability to be able to see a doctor, things reached a point where on 11/19/2006 custody staff had to apply “use force” on Beltran which involved 4-pointing him to a bed under restraints. (see attachment 17: unusual occurrence report: Beltran: dated 11/19/2006).

On November 22, 2006, Beltran was moved to unit 5 and placed alone, into cell #31 (5-A-31), due to the nature of his crimes, caseworker Weiss advised him that to remain here in Unit 5, General Population, that he would be required to double-cell, and discussed segregation unit placement for his own protection. (see attachment 12: Weiss Memo to McDaniel).
For the next month, Beltran remained on single cell status when on December 20, 2006, after a caseworker- initiated bedmove, I was removed from the cell I was already living in with a cellmate, and placed in Beltran’s cell. (see attachment 12 and 14: cell assignment form and Weiss Memo to McDaniel)
Eight (8) days later on December 28, 2006, Anthony Beltran lost his life.

7.
For anyone not familiar with the NDOC prison system and the daily environment within prison among the inmate population, particularly the White population, the placing of a validated AW gang member into a cell with a convicted sex offender could best be described as: “gasoline and a match.” The ESP administration and CERT fire cabinets are stuffed with acts of violence by alleged AW gang members against other inmates at ESP and other prisons throughout the system. Particularly, against informants, rapists, and child molesters.

For anyone familiar with such within the prison system, whether they be staff or inmate, to see on a cell assignment sheet the word “AW” for one inmate, and “convicted sex offender” for the other, would immediately have the word “danger” come to mind. As one person exclaimed to me upon seeing the cell assignment sheet for Beltran and I, “That’s not a bedmove sheet, that’s a death warrant.” For classification/unit caseworkers, CERT staff and ESP administration officials to claim ignorance of such dangers is grossly incompetent, negligent, and outright absurd. The NDOC’s knowledge of such potential dangers is well-documented within a Federal Criminal Indictment filed against the Aryan Warriors (AW) and their alleged activities. (see attachment 18: Federal Criminal Superseding Indictment dated: May 20, 2008 #2:07 CR-145-KSD-PAL).

8.
Within the Nevada prison system the need to protect inmates convicted of sex crimes is obvious and clear. Such inmates are despised and hated by both inmates and staff alike. When and where they are found out by other inmates, they are subject to serious risk of violence and physical bodily harm, even death, at the hands of their fellow inmates. Ask anyone who works in the corrections field, whether State or Federal, the truth of this and you will find them all in agreement regarding that sex offenders face.

The Nevada Department of Corrections is no different. NDOC Administrative Regulation (AR) 509 deals directly with the Identification, Management, and Protection of such inmates. At Ely State Prison, warden McDaniel, associate warden Adam Endel, CERT office staff, and classification/unit caseworkers are all fully aware of the need to protect such inmates from the rest of the inmate population, particularly from any alleged gang members.

Up until 2006, ESP was one of several prisons which operated a fully self-contained protective custody unit and yard to specifically house those sex offenders and other inmates who had previously been assaulted and who had survived their attacks, as well as those inmates who, if placed in General Population, would become potential victims themselves. ESP administration officials created and implemented I.P. 7: 21: Protective Segregation Level 1 and I.P. 7.22: Protective Segregation Level II, to identify, manage and to protect such inmates while here at ESP. (see attachment 18a: IP 5.01: Duties of Institutional Classification Committees, dated: 2/1/2006; page 4).

Even with such protections in place, sex offenders would still routinely be assaulted here at ESP, even those in the Protective Custody Unit, when and where found. Case in point, Jeremy Strohmeyer, in 2004, allegedly assaulted by another General Population inmate as he walked across the yard to a visit. Even as of this date, 2011, the NDOC still operates Protective Custody Yards to house sex offenders, etc… For any ESP classification/unit caseworkers, CERT office staff, and administration officials to claim ignorance of the need to protect sex offenders from other inmates, especially alleged gang members, is grossly incompetent, negligent, and outright absurd. (see attachment 17 “AW” Criminal Indictment also, attachment 18a: IP 5.01).

9.
Only caseworker Weiss knows why she initiated such a clearly dangerous bedmove, ignoring established procedures. As such, regarding The Duties of Institutional Classification Committees; IP 5.01 (page 4) at the bottom of the 1st paragraph states: “…if it is determined that P.C. housing is not needed, then the inmates will be reviewed to determine suitable housing at ESP.”(see attachment 18a: IP 5.02 page 4).

Which raises the obvious question: How in the hell could I ever be considered “suitable housing” for a convicted sex offender?!?!
In all fairness, classifying inmates is not an easy job. People make mistakes (caseworkers are human too as caseworkers go, Kay Weiss is one of the best and most decent). That is why there are Institutional Procedures (IP’s) and Operational Procedures (OP’s) in place which dictate a system of multiple safety checks and balances to catch and to stop such a mistake from happening. In this case, as with all bedmoves/cell assignments at ESP, it is IP, now OP 5.13, and the cell assignment form. (see attached) which has multiple reviews and approvals by senior and experienced corrections staff. From the unit housing sgt, all the way up to the associate warden of programs. The only problem is that this system has failed. Turned into a crap shoot, a roll of the dice, for caseworkers regarding cell/housing assignments, and it continues to fail on a regular basis to this day.
You can have the best OP in the entire prison system to house inmates, but if the people whose job to implement it are lazy, incompetent, callous, or simply incapable of performing their duties, then that system is worthless and people are going to get hurt. An IP or OP is only as good as those whose job it is to enforce it.

Beltran is dead because I stabbed him and if Kay Weiss, sgt P. Hunt, ccwsIII H. Peltier[unreadable], CERT sgt R. Otero, acting A.W.O. Lt. T. Jones, and A.W.P. A. Endel, would have followed proper review procedures and not simply “rubber-stamped” the cell form and passed it onto the next person, Beltran would still be alive today. They didn’t kill beltran, they just opened all the doors and unlocked all of the locks.

A ”comedy of errors”… a “colossal failure”… “incompetence at its finest”… However you wish to view it or describe it, it never should have happened and in his attempt to pass the buck and not take responsibility for his involvement, AWP Adam Endel, I believe, inadvertedly provides the best answer as to what is fundamentally wrong here at ESP and its policy of double-celling (“ware-housing”). On the stand at my trial, Endel gave testimony regarding his signature on the cell assignment form:

Q: “So if everyone approved, would you just simply check ‘approved’?”
A: “Yes, I would.”
Q: “Would you do any independent research?”
A: “No.”
(see attachment 19: A. Endel Testimony; trial transcripts page 741, lines 5-9).

If the AWP is not going to check for any errors and just “rubber-stamp”/approve a bedmove, what’s the point of even signing or having a bedmove sheet in the first place?

Later on during cross-examination, Endel goes on to explain that he gives great weight to whether inmates approve of the move, in his approving of a bedmove! (see attachment 19 Trial transcripts, page 742, lines 22-24).

Well, that’s great news to ask inmates who are enemies, or rival gang members, etc… and want to get together and take care of business. All they have to do is put in a kite to live together. Hell, I can think of a few child molesters I would like to talk into celling up together… Just by agreeing, we’re half way home on being approved. –

When top ESP administrators / warden(s) at a 24/7 maximum security prison do all they can to essentially force double-celling onto the inmate population, and then simply rubber-stamp bedmoves with little or no oversight, allowing whoever to move into a cell together, allowing unit caseworkers to simply cell-up who-ever… then is it really any wonder why there is so much inmate on inmate violence? So many cell fights, vicious beatings, stabbings, even deaths?? At what point does it stop becoming the fault of the inmates, and that of the prison officials?

For a clear view of what goes on in this prison, for a true glimpse into the daily, routine cycle of violence, that goes on within these walls, one has to look no further than the Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT) video log books at ESP (see attachment 20: CERT video logbook entries dated from: 12-16-2006 to 7-3-07). This is just what gets reported and responded to. This is just a fraction of the violence that goes on here inside these cells on a daily basis, and it still goes on here to this day. The same cell assignment forms, the same forced double celling under threat of punishment, the same sloppy cell assignment(s) and disregard for inmate safety, the same lack of oversight and rubber-stamping approvals, all leading to the same daily violence, beatings, stabbings and even deaths.

Where did it all start? Where does it end? I don’t know. I, like many others in here, am a product of our environment and we struggle every day to try and not be consumed by it, but in the end becoming more of a problem than a solution. It’s a vicious cycle of inmate violence, staff abuse, inmate violence and even more staff abuse. We all need to take responsibility for our actions, but in here that is a one way street. ESP staff fail to see the blood on their hands, doing no wrong, admitting no wrong, focusing instead on damage control and protecting one another which only continues the cycle of frustration, anger and violence.

10.
Given all of the violence that goes on in this forced double cell environment, you would think warden McDaniel, awp Endel, and other ESP policy makers would have proper medical facilities and trained staff to treat the sick and injured. There are no such staff or facilities at ESP and on the day of Beltran’s death, he never stood a chance after he left the cell.

Registered nurse (RN) Gloria Carpenter testified that the ESP infirmary is not a hospital but a clinic-type setting and they don’t have the tools and medical supplies readily available and prepared to treat such injuries (see attachment 19: Trial transcripts, p. 540, lines 11-15).

Nurse Carpenter further testified that they were on their own. That they did not have a doctor on the premises, that they were making phone calls trying to get a hold of a doctor in another prison, but they could not reach one and eventually they had to rely on a nursing administrator for medical advice/treatment. (see attachment 19: Trial transcripts page 536, lines 18-24; also: page 537, lines 1-6).

Nurse Carpenter testified that the only thing medical staff in the infirmary were prepared and able to do to treat Beltran, was to provide CPR (see attachment 19: trial transcripts, page 541, lines 20-23). She further testified that she and other medical staff repeatedly requested that an ambulance be called by custody staff, that no one ever did call, and that they were unable to get an ambulance for Beltran to take him to an area hospital. That custody staff would not provide or call for an ambulance. (see attachment 19: trial transcripts, page 536, lines 1-8; also: page 542, lines 21-24 and page 543, lines 1-4).

To say the medical care at ESP is inadequate is an understatement. The medical care at ESP is grossly negligent given the warden McDaniel-created environment of violence and abuse. Dr William Noel, a medical expert retained by the ACLU, provided a report in December, 2007, that described his review of the medical records of thirty-five (35) prisoners here at ESP; in his report, Dr Noel stated: “The medical care provided at Ely State prison amounts to the grossest possible medical malpractice and the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering that I have ever encountered in my thirty-five (35) years of practice.”(see “Ely State Prison”, from: WikiPedia.com, also: http://www.aclu.org/pdfs/prison/reportbymedicalexpertonelystateprison.pdf, p. 1).

On March 6, 2009, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the NDOC, governor Gibbons and other State officials on behalf of inmates at Ely State Prison regarding health care. In July, 2010, the suit was settled with the NDOC agreeing to implement sweeping changes. As of 2011, it remains to be seen what permanent changes will remain (see Rikers v. Gibbons: http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/health-care-ely-state-prison with links to the settlement agreement (2010 )).

11.
Before the stabbing and death of Beltran at ESP, the NDOC used to allow inmates state-wide to purchase typewriters from the prison canteen and to keep such property in their cells. Inmates were also allowed to do the same at ESP. I have never owned or purchased a typewriter before, but I had one in my possession and from it I pulled a metal rod, which I then used to stab Beltran with.

The investigating White Pine County sheriff’s office (WPCSO) detectives after Beltran’s death on December 28, 2006, wanted ESP staff to identify and explain who owned the typewriter used in his death and how did I end up with it in cell 5-A-31?? (see attachment 21, p. 15: WPCSO crime scene photos of typewriter in cell 5-A-31).

As for ownership, ESP staff trough Property Room Records determined the owner of the typewriter to me a Thomas Murray #55461 and that he was currently out on Parole. (see attachment 21, p. 16 Lt Tony Jones – Report on Typewriter, dated 1/10/2007). As for how it came into my possession, on January 10, 2007, ESP investigator Gerald Thompson of the Nevada Inspector General’s Office (IG) contacted WPSCO detective Mike Stolk and explained to him that he tracked the origin of the typewriter, that it had been the property of inmate Thomas Murray, of unit 8, probably a couple of years ago, and that inmate Murray is now out on Parole. Investigator Thompson went on to further explain that the typewriter could have passed through numerous hands during that time-frame before getting to inmate Potter. (see: Attachment 21, p. 18: WPCSO Supplement Report, dated January 25, 2007, page 2, bottom paragraph).

The problem with these statements are that they are a complete fabrication. With the exception of being on parole, investigator Thompson lied about everything else. Thomas Murray had not been living in Unit 8. He was not living in unit 8 when he paroled, nor did he parole a couple of years ago, as investigator Thompson misleads detectives into believing. Nothing passed through inmates’ hands for years…

Thomas Murray lived in Unit 5. His last cell assignment at ESP was 5-A-27, three (3) doors down from me, and he paroled from that cell around the last week of October, 2006, two 92) months prior to the death of inmate Beltran in cell 5-A-31. (see attachment 21, p. 19: cell shakedown log for cell 5-A-27: “Murray & Atwood”, dated October 11, 2006).

ESP investigator Thompson knew this information above and purposely lied and fabricated a story to cover those facts up. He intentionally mislead WPCSO detectives to prevent them from discovering the truth of Thomas Murray’s last known cell assignment at ESP and ascertain the true whereabouts of the typewriter. Investigator Thompson wanted to hide from WPCSO detectives the fact that Thomas Murray and his typewriter were in Unit 5 just prior to the typewriter being used in a homicide they were investigating, and most important of all, investigator Thompson wanted to prevent detectives from investigating and finding out that the only way a typewriter could have passed from inmate Murray’s cell into my hands, is with the help of Unit 5 staff.

Investigator Thompson purposely lied and intentionally mislead a homicide investigation in order to protect ESP staff from any involvement and to keep the NDOC safe from any potential liability regarding the death of inmate Beltran. (Unit 5 is a 24/7 lockdown unit. Any time an inmate leaves his cell, he is in restraints, handcuffed behind his back and under ESP staff escort and supervision. A typewriter does not fit under a cell door, it does not fit through the food slot).

I.G. investigator Thompson arrived that morning and was gone, left ESP within the hour. He could care less that a C.O. picked up the weapon and walked off with it; showing it to other C.O.’s around the prison. He could care less that there is not a single photo or video-frame footage of Beltran until a sheet was thrown over him. That all staff video recordings are distorted and unviewable, and then clears up and becomes viewable after the body is covered. All investigator Thompson was concerned about was that his cat back home had the sniffles and he wanted to take her to the vet. On December 28, 2006, instead of investigating a homicide and any staff misconduct/involvement, investigator Thompson was at the vet. He did not even stick around for the WPCSO detectives.

When an investigator for the Inspector General’s office is more concerned with his cat than investigating an inmate homicide, that is cause for some major concern. And when an investigator from the IG’s office lies to and fabricates a story to mislead other law enforcement officers to prevent them from uncovering potential prison staff involvement, then everyone out there in the public needs to stop and say, What the hell is going on in there at ESP?!?!

Because until the general public stands up and starts demanding some accountability of the NDOC and of the Inspector General’s office, whose responsibility it is to police prison staff, then you’re going to keep hearing about ESP staff abuses, inmate beatings, and unusual deaths. It is exactly why you do hear about such things to this day here at ESP.
This is just one case, one instance, where staff lying and covering up can be shown and in a rare instance proven and documented. You can see the standard operating approach that they decide to take, sweep it under the rug and hope no one on the outside takes notice and makes issue of it, so that you the public, their real bosses, will never know about it and other staff misconduct.

Well, now you do know about it, now you know about the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Beltran’s family in regards to this incident (see: Helen Jane Romero et al. v. Nevada Department of Corrections et al., docket # 2:08-cv-00808-RCJ-LRL).

And until each of the taxpaying public starts calling for change, responsibility and accountability of the NDOC and until you start holding ESP officials, such as warden McDaniel and associate warden (AWP) Endel, responsible for how they run and manage their prison and staff, then be prepared for a lot more lawsuits like the one above and other similar ones.
As of this date, warden McDaniel and associate warden Endel are no longer at Ely State Prison. After all that has occurred here at ESP, the medical malpractices, staff abuses, inmate deaths and lawsuits, director Greg Cox has seen fit to reward warden McDaniel for his fine management at ESP by appointing him deputy director of operations for the NDOC, placing him next in line for director. The public doesn’t have to worry about McDaniel running a prison anymore, you all just have to now worry about him running an entire prison system. Former awp Endel has been enjoying the fruits of his excellent incompetence at ESP as well, taking such skills to Parole and Probation where he is now in charge of those to be released back into your communities.

If Adam Endel approves of and finds me “suitable housing” for a protective Custody inmate, then how does that make you feel as a public that this same person is now deciding which violent, sexual predator, inmates should be approved for parole/probation and placed back onto the streets next to your sons & daughters? Everyone should take notice and be concerned with his decision-making abilities.

I have written these words so that others can know, so the public can know, how these events unfolded between Beltran and I. Aware of the actions and decisions of all involved, and so you can know how easily all of this could have been prevented. When people read all of these articles and comments out there about the senseless depravity of Ely State Prison, know that it is true and not just some more inmate sniveling bullshit. Now you can see for yourselves, with the NDOC’s own documents, how much merit is in these articles.

The situation here at Ely is beyond deplorable… imagine if it was your son, brother, friend, cousin, uncle, husband or father who has been thrown into this black pit of hopelessness, forced to swim with the sharks or drown in a murky pool or bloody water. The suffering, all of these things are real. As a public, your concern should not be with me but with those in here not doing life without parole, bit with those in here forced to live under such psychologically harmful and debilitating conditions to then one day be released back into society. Your neighborhoods. You don’t have to treat inmates like animals to be “tough on crime.” We are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment, and the sooner ESP can adopt that into its actual management and treatment of its inmates, then the better off we will all be in here, inmates and staff alike, as well as society as a whole.
I don’t deny or downplay what I’ve done, or the tragedy that was committed by my hands and for which I will surely and dearly pay. I can say – not with pride, but with truth – that I’m a criminal, a murdered and an administrative puppet on a string. I can’t hide it or deny it, but what about the people that keep us here and move us around like pawns on a chess board, who are fully aware of how we act, react, think, feel and see things as they use our own ideologies and criminal ways against us?… What about them, what can they say?… What can they say about themselves?… How can they look themselves in the mirror and not hide the truth of what they are?

In Truth and Sincerity,
Douglas Scott Potter
Ely State Prison, Nevada
October 14, 2011

Received, typed Nov-Dec 2011. On Dec 28th it is five years ago that this tragedy happened. What has changed?
Douglas Scott Potter’s story can be read also with the attachments on his Scribd-site: http://www.scribd.com/DouglasScottPotter

“That’s not a bedmove sheet, that’s a death warrant”: A real life look into murder, negligence and callousness at Ely State Prison

An exposé by: Douglas Potter

I am a convicted murderer. Convicted of a murder that occurred here in Ely State prison (ESP). This is my first time at trying to pen an article like this so bear with me, but what I have to say will be truly mind-blowing to many who read what I am about to reveal and thou it may boggle the Public’s brain, unfortunately the reality is that this is just another occurrence that has become common, if not every day life, to many who have spent more than a couple of years in this sickening world of madness and despair.
Even though prisoners are generally discarded by society and are sometimes even looked down on as “low lives” and “garbage”, I still believe that there are people out there who care, people who have loved ones inside and who want to know the truth of what really goes on in here, no matter how brutal that truth may be.

There are several things that have compelled me to write this article, one of those was after reading a truthful and descriptive article by another prisoner about what has been referred to as: The “Bloody Sunday” Incident, by Coyote Sheff. It is something I can attest to because it was something that I, myself, was involved in. I was there that day. (see attachment 1A: Inmate Grievance Report, log # 2006-28-92302, dated: February 4, 2010. See also: Solidarity and Struggle: more on the Jan. 31st Riot at Ely State Prison, by Coyote Sheff, in: http://sfbayview.com/2010/solidarity-and-struggle-more-on-the-jan-31-riot-at-ely-state-prison/ and on: http://nevadaprisonwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/solidarity-and-struggle-more-on-esp-jan.html).

It brought back a lot of thoughts and feelings that I have since purposely pushed from my mind so as to forget about them, but this is not a story about that incident, but a story of an even more brutal and monstrous nature. A story about another Dark and Bloody morning that ended in death. This is a story that needs to be told so that everyone can know and understand the events that led up to my victim’s death. So that the public can be aware of the negligence, incompetence, and callousness that has become a common theme in this world of defined darkness at Ely State Prison.
Before I get to the facts of this murder, first let me say this, in the article about the “Bloody Sunday” Incident, Coyote Sheff mentions a few things in particular that really stood out to me and which I will also touch upon in this article as it pertains to my story in more ways than you could possibly understand. Those particular things that were mentioned in Sheff’s article are: 1) The Indictment and trial of the Aryan Warriors. 2) The Indeterminate Lockdown of ESP inmates. 3) The forcing of cellmates upon inmates.

There may be readers out there who doubt the truth and credibility in Coyote’s articles – you may even feel the same way about what I have to say – and even though I know what Coyote says is the truth, without actual proof and documentation there is always going to be individuals out there who disbelieve, discredit, or disagree. But where Coyote has failed to back his words up with proof, I will not fail in that regard. Everything I tell you will be backed up with the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC)’s own paperwork as documentation. “It’s not what you know, but what you can prove.” And know this: ESP fought tooth and nail for nearly two (2) years to try and keep these documents that you are about to see from being released through Discovery in a Court of Law.

The things that I cannot prove, I will leave out. I will only discuss and reveal that which I can support with their own words, documents, and signatures so that no one has to take my word for it; so that you can see for yourselves and make up your own mind. So that no “Localboy 76’s” can try to come along and attempt to divert the truth with a broad blanket of how “You can’t believe these disgruntled, whiney, inmates…”

I want everyone to know that I make no excuses for my actions. I only attempt to explain factors and circumstances that had a direct bearing and impact on my choices, so that people can understand the who, where’s, ways. I take full responsibility for the stabbing and death of Anthony Beltran. I accept the consequences and punishment that was handed down to me in a court of law. No appeals have been filed in my case. For those actions that I am innocent of, I will never take responsibility or accept punishment for them (you know who you are, and so do others).

I have been called a coward by some, but even if that is true, at least this coward can stand and take responsibility for what I have done, which is more than anyone will ever see or hear from those uniformed cowards here at ESP who hide behind their paper badges, razor-wired fences, lying and covering up the truth of that day in their safe little self-created environment. It is not what you know, but what you can prove and whether this specific case, January 31st Bloody Sunday, or the countless other use of force incidents within these walls, when all of the witnesses are you, and you control all of the evidence, then you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as everyone keeps their mouth shut and sticks to the same story. It is the same regardless of incident, the one common denominator among ESP staff and how they get away with so much.

Unfortunately, as is more often the case, most incidents are brushed aside, investigated with tunnel vision and protecting the prison and its staff from liability at the back of everyone’s mind. My story is about such a case, a case that wasn’t so much about the truth as it was the state manouvering to protect themselves from as much of it as they could. No one within the NDOC or within the ESP administration taking responsibility for their actions, the actions of their staff, and the fact that two (2) different inmates at Nevada’s most notorious maximum security lock up (ESP) should have never crossed paths, let alone be locked into a cell together. Ely State Prison can be described as a place where prisoners are paced to be warehoused, a place where prisoners are placed to be punished and to suffer, and in this case, a place where a certain prisoner was placed to die. A death that easily could have and should have been prevented.

1.
My name is Douglas Potter, #66313, I am known to be a violent gang member with a history of NDOC assaults and stabbings (see attachment 1: NDOC – Disciplinary History Report).

I entered the NDOC in August of 2000 after being convicted of two (2) counts of armed robbery with use of a deadly weapon (see: attachment 2 NDOC / ESP #66313 cover sheet with photo).

After passing through the Northern Nevada Correctional Center (NNCC, in Carson City) intake I was placed onto the NNCC main yard where in 2001 I was suspected of stabbing another inmate in the throat and other security threat group activities (see attachment 3: NDOC / NNCC Investigation Informative, dated: Sept. 2001).

As a direct result of this assault, I was transferred from NNCC to the Nevada State Prison (NSP) in Carson City, where in 2002, I assaulted and severely beat my cellmate to the extent that the services of Carson-Tahoe Hospital, Washoe Medical Center, and care-flight were needed. I was charged, convicted, and an additional 1 to 6 years were added to my sentence (see attachment 1: NDOC Disciplinary History Report; Incident ID # 16148).

While serving hole time at NSP for this assault, my mental health deteriorated to the point that in April 2005, I was transferred to the mental health unit at NNCC where I was placed on anti-psychotic medication, returned to NSP, and then transferred to Ely State Prison (ESP) where I remained in the hole on psychotropics until Nov. 2003 (see attachment 4: NNCC Mental Health Unit Chrono, dated 4/10/03. Also, attachment 5: Release / Refusal to take medication dated 11/15/03).

After completing my hole time I was classified to General Population and assigned a cellmate. I was placed in the workers unit and given a job in the ESP kitchen where, in 2005, I assaulted and repeatedly stabbed another Inmate Worker with a meat carving fork and I was given two (2) years in the hole. (see attachment 1: NDOC – Disciplinary History Report; Incident ID # 55156).

It is the position and the policy of the ESP Administration and staff that in order to be considered a “Positively Programming” Inmate, you are required to double-cell. That if you ever expect to move anywhere, and to receive more privileges within ESP, then you must double-cell or risk being severely punished to the fullest extent (see attachment 6: I.P. 5.13 Inmate housing /cell assignments. Also: attachment 7: AWP Adam Endel memo: “To all inmates”/double-celling, dated: Sept. 2006).

Ely State Prison
For those not familiar with ESP, it is essentially a human warehouse. A maximum security prison which houses approx. 1,100 inmates of various custody and classification levels. With the exception of a small worker unit, the entire prison is confined to their cells, locked down 24/7 with inmates being allowed to use an enclosed recreation pen for one (1) hour a day and the use of a shower once every three (3) days when staff availability permits. The prison is divided into two (2) sides or phases.
Phase II houses General Population Inmates and Phase I houses Disciplinary Segregation (Dis. Seg.) and Administrative Segregation (Ad. Seg.) Inmates, with the only difference between the 3 classification levels being the amount of privileges you are allowed, i.e.: food, clothing, hygiene supplies, property, phone calls, visits, etc… “General Population” receiving the most, while Ad. Seg. less, with Dis. Seg. inmates being stripped of all such items with the exception of bare constitutional minimums allowed by law.

In 2005, under pressure to double cell in the hole and the threat of severe sanctions to be imposed if I didn’t, I double-celled to avoid such conditions and indefinite placement in Dis.Seg. and/or Ad.Seg. Because of such fears, unit caseworkers became empowered with a “fuck you”-type arrogant, callous, if not hateful, kind of attitude which directly came to bear on me when I tried to address the concerns I had with the compatibility of any future cellmates, and the stressful issues I was having concerning such a double-cell environment. I tried to address such issues verbally with my unit caseworker, ccwsII R. Chambliss, to the point of frustration and anger, and eventually in writing to both him and ccwsII Drain (see attachment 8, 9, 10: three (3) kites to Chambliss and Drain with responses).

As a direct result of such, I was written up and punished for my actions. (see attachment 1: NDOC Disc History Report; Incident ID #9454).

2.
With ESP classification and unit caseworkers fully aware of my past history of violence, inmate on inmate assaults, and concerns/”threats” regarding cellmate compatibility, ESP staff continued to double-cell me with other inmates. On March of 2006, the Office of the Inspector general (I.G.) validated me as belonging to the Security Threat Group (STG) “Aryan Warriors” (AW), with caseworker Chambliss documenting such within the NDOC computer system (see attachment 11: NDOC-offender Information Notes; entry date: 3/24/2006).

3.
In August of 2006, after completing my hole time for the ESP kitchen stabbing, Associate Warden of Programs (AWP) A. Endel immediately cleared me for movement and double-celling in Phase II, General Population (see attachment 11: NDOC-offender information summary case notes; entry date: 8/31/2006). Approximately two (2) weeks later I was then moved to General Population and housed in Unit 5, A-side, cell #30 (5-A-30), where for the next three (3) months I had four (4) different cellmates (see attachment 11: NDOC-offender information summary/case notes dated: 9/8/2006). Inmate Anthony Beltran #89304 being my last cellmate.

4.
I had just finished almost two (2) years in the hole. I was hesitant, fearful, of addressing my double-celling/compatibility concerns. I did not want to go back. AWP Adam Endel’s memo to all inmates was posted in the Unit 5 Sally Port (see attachment 7: AWP A. Endel double-celling memo dated: Sept. 7, 2006). My father was thinking about coming to visit, I wanted to call home. So I bit my tongue and fought with myself to live in a concrete box and having someone in my face every time I turned around.

5.
Upon my arrival in Unit 5, I had repeatedly requested approval to be moved to an open unit, the Workers Unit (Unit 8). My requests went unanswered and after my 1st and 2nd cellmates had been cleared for movement to Unit 8, around November 2006, C.E.R.T. Sgt. R. Otero came to my cell-door and informed me for Institutional Safety and Security Reasons, and my stabbing gin the culinary, that I was going to stay where I was at, that he couldn’t put me in the Culinary and sure as hell wasn’t about to give me a shovel or rake on Yard Labor. That my request was denied. (see attachment 12: K. Weiss memo to Warden McDaniel, dated 1/2/2007).

After my 2nd cellmate had been cleared to move out, I began to plan for my 3rd cellmate. On occasion, inmates can submit requests to move in together to ensure compatibility due to our long periods of lockdown, sometimes for years on end. Avoid the “roll of the dice” on a caseworker-initiated bedmove. So as required by IP 5.13, my 3rd cellmate and I submitted kites requesting to live together and when my 2nd cellmate moved out on Dec. 12th, 2006, we moved in together that same day. (see attachment 13: Kite to Mrs Weiss dated 12/7/06/ Also: attachment 6: OP/IP 5.13 Housing Cell Assignments).

Seven (7) days later on December 19, 2006, caseworker Weiss came to my cell-door telling me that she was going to move me into cell#31 with Beltran, that she had already put in the bedmove sheet, and asked if I would fill out a kite requesting to move in with him. She also asked the same of Beltran. I don’t know what he said, but I told her “fuck no” or “hell no,” I’m not sure which and we then argued. She left saying she was sorry, that she already put it in. (see attachment 14: Cell Assignment Form dated: 12-9-06).

The next day, on Dec. 20th, 2006, custody staff told me to pack my shit, that I was moving next door into cell #31. I requested and spoke to caseworker Weiss where I complained aggressively and bitterly and finally convinced her to at least try and postpone the bedmove until my cellmate actually moved out. She went into her office and called someone, I don’t know who, but she came back out a short time later and was upset. Said that she just got her ass chewed out, that she was sorry and there was nothing she could do and she left. (note: I have no phone records from the Unit 5 caseworkers’ office, but they do exist. All phone calls made are logged and tracked from prison phones).

For ccwsII (caseworker) Kay Weiss to at a later date claim that no-one “complained of compatibility…” is an outright lie. (see attachment 12: Weiss memo to warden McDaniel dated: 1/2/2007).

There are two (2) kinds of bedmoves, caseworker-initiated and inmates requested. The latter requiring both inmates to submit written requests. In inmate Beltran’s institutional file (I-File) or my I-File, there is no record of any such requests being made by Beltran or myself. Yet. On the cell assignment form, in the top right-hand corner, someone has made it to appear that we did agree by scratching out: “ccws RX”(RX = transfer) and writing in: “Inmates agree.”(see attachment 14: Cell Assignment Form dated 12/19/06).

An outright lie and attempt to cover up and protect staff from any responsibility and liability for negligence placing a prison gang member and sex offender into the same cell.

As an inmate I don’t have the luxury of choice, and within a prison environment, what choices I do have is between the lesser of two evils as we are all at the mercy of staff and their decisions. I go where I am told and do what they tell me to do or I can take my ass to the hole and go sit stripped out in a concrete box. Those were my options. My “choices” as well as Beltran’s.

So when they came for me an hour later, rather than refuse and fight, I moved into 5-A-#31 with Anthony Beltran, who several days later, turned out to be a convicted sex offender x8 (see attachment 15: NDOC/ESP #89304 coversheet with photo).

And that is how my path came to cross with that of Beltran’s. How his path came to cross mine is similar, but shorter, and never should have happened.

6.
Anthony Beltran entered the NDOC through the High Desert State Prison (HDSP) in January of 2006 after being convicted of first degree kidnapping, robbery & multiple counts of sexual assault (see attachment 15: NDOC/ESP 89304 coversheet with photo). After passing through intake at HDSP he remained in ad-seg due to his sentence stature, nature of crime, and that he was accused of being involved in a plot to harm a county jail officer, which did not endear him to prison staff who promptly “validated” him as a “Security Threat Group” (STG) and scheduled transfer to ESP to be housed (see attachment 16: chrono entries for Beltran dated: 5-18-2009).

On 10/24/2006 Beltran was moved to the workers unit, units, where he remained for approximately three (3) weeks before being transferred to the ESP Infirmary on 11/19/2006. From what appears to be the continued denial of medical treatment by ESP staff and his inability to be able to see a doctor, things reached a point where on 11/19/2006 custody staff had to apply “use force” on Beltran which involved 4-pointing him to a bed under restraints. (see attachment 17: unusual occurrence report: Beltran: dated 11/19/2006).

On November 22, 2006, Beltran was moved to unit 5 and placed alone, into cell #31 (5-A-31), due to the nature of his crimes, caseworker Weiss advised him that to remain here in Unit 5, General Population, that he would be required to double-cell, and discussed segregation unit placement for his own protection. (see attachment 12: Weiss Memo to McDaniel).
For the next month, Beltran remained on single cell status when on December 20, 2006, after a caseworker- initiated bedmove, I was removed from the cell I was already living in with a cellmate, and placed in Beltran’s cell. (see attachment 12 and 14: cell assignment form and Weiss Memo to McDaniel)
Eight (8) days later on December 28, 2006, Anthony Beltran lost his life.

7.
For anyone not familiar with the NDOC prison system and the daily environment within prison among the inmate population, particularly the White population, the placing of a validated AW gang member into a cell with a convicted sex offender could best be described as: “gasoline and a match.” The ESP administration and CERT fire cabinets are stuffed with acts of violence by alleged AW gang members against other inmates at ESP and other prisons throughout the system. Particularly, against informants, rapists, and child molesters.

For anyone familiar with such within the prison system, whether they be staff or inmate, to see on a cell assignment sheet the word “AW” for one inmate, and “convicted sex offender” for the other, would immediately have the word “danger” come to mind. As one person exclaimed to me upon seeing the cell assignment sheet for Beltran and I, “That’s not a bedmove sheet, that’s a death warrant.” For classification/unit caseworkers, CERT staff and ESP administration officials to claim ignorance of such dangers is grossly incompetent, negligent, and outright absurd. The NDOC’s knowledge of such potential dangers is well-documented within a Federal Criminal Indictment filed against the Aryan Warriors (AW) and their alleged activities. (see attachment 18: Federal Criminal Superseding Indictment dated: May 20, 2008 #2:07 CR-145-KSD-PAL).

8.
Within the Nevada prison system the need to protect inmates convicted of sex crimes is obvious and clear. Such inmates are despised and hated by both inmates and staff alike. When and where they are found out by other inmates, they are subject to serious risk of violence and physical bodily harm, even death, at the hands of their fellow inmates. Ask anyone who works in the corrections field, whether State or Federal, the truth of this and you will find them all in agreement regarding that sex offenders face.

The Nevada Department of Corrections is no different. NDOC Administrative Regulation (AR) 509 deals directly with the Identification, Management, and Protection of such inmates. At Ely State Prison, warden McDaniel, associate warden Adam Endel, CERT office staff, and classification/unit caseworkers are all fully aware of the need to protect such inmates from the rest of the inmate population, particularly from any alleged gang members.

Up until 2006, ESP was one of several prisons which operated a fully self-contained protective custody unit and yard to specifically house those sex offenders and other inmates who had previously been assaulted and who had survived their attacks, as well as those inmates who, if placed in General Population, would become potential victims themselves. ESP administration officials created and implemented I.P. 7: 21: Protective Segregation Level 1 and I.P. 7.22: Protective Segregation Level II, to identify, manage and to protect such inmates while here at ESP. (see attachment 18a: IP 5.01: Duties of Institutional Classification Committees, dated: 2/1/2006; page 4).

Even with such protections in place, sex offenders would still routinely be assaulted here at ESP, even those in the Protective Custody Unit, when and where found. Case in point, Jeremy Strohmeyer, in 2004, allegedly assaulted by another General Population inmate as he walked across the yard to a visit. Even as of this date, 2011, the NDOC still operates Protective Custody Yards to house sex offenders, etc… For any ESP classification/unit caseworkers, CERT office staff, and administration officials to claim ignorance of the need to protect sex offenders from other inmates, especially alleged gang members, is grossly incompetent, negligent, and outright absurd. (see attachment 17 “AW” Criminal Indictment also, attachment 18a: IP 5.01).

9.
Only caseworker Weiss knows why she initiated such a clearly dangerous bedmove, ignoring established procedures. As such, regarding The Duties of Institutional Classification Committees; IP 5.01 (page 4) at the bottom of the 1st paragraph states: “…if it is determined that P.C. housing is not needed, then the inmates will be reviewed to determine suitable housing at ESP.”(see attachment 18a: IP 5.02 page 4).

Which raises the obvious question: How in the hell could I ever be considered “suitable housing” for a convicted sex offender?!?!
In all fairness, classifying inmates is not an easy job. People make mistakes (caseworkers are human too as caseworkers go, Kay Weiss is one of the best and most decent). That is why there are Institutional Procedures (IP’s) and Operational Procedures (OP’s) in place which dictate a system of multiple safety checks and balances to catch and to stop such a mistake from happening. In this case, as with all bedmoves/cell assignments at ESP, it is IP, now OP 5.13, and the cell assignment form. (see attached) which has multiple reviews and approvals by senior and experienced corrections staff. From the unit housing sgt, all the way up to the associate warden of programs. The only problem is that this system has failed. Turned into a crap shoot, a roll of the dice, for caseworkers regarding cell/housing assignments, and it continues to fail on a regular basis to this day.
You can have the best OP in the entire prison system to house inmates, but if the people whose job to implement it are lazy, incompetent, callous, or simply incapable of performing their duties, then that system is worthless and people are going to get hurt. An IP or OP is only as good as those whose job it is to enforce it.

Beltran is dead because I stabbed him and if Kay Weiss, sgt P. Hunt, ccwsIII H. Peltier[unreadable], CERT sgt R. Otero, acting A.W.O. Lt. T. Jones, and A.W.P. A. Endel, would have followed proper review procedures and not simply “rubber-stamped” the cell form and passed it onto the next person, Beltran would still be alive today. They didn’t kill beltran, they just opened all the doors and unlocked all of the locks.

A ”comedy of errors”… a “colossal failure”… “incompetence at its finest”… However you wish to view it or describe it, it never should have happened and in his attempt to pass the buck and not take responsibility for his involvement, AWP Adam Endel, I believe, inadvertedly provides the best answer as to what is fundamentally wrong here at ESP and its policy of double-celling (“ware-housing”). On the stand at my trial, Endel gave testimony regarding his signature on the cell assignment form:

Q: “So if everyone approved, would you just simply check ‘approved’?”
A: “Yes, I would.”
Q: “Would you do any independent research?”
A: “No.”
(see attachment 19: A. Endel Testimony; trial transcripts page 741, lines 5-9).

If the AWP is not going to check for any errors and just “rubber-stamp”/approve a bedmove, what’s the point of even signing or having a bedmove sheet in the first place?

Later on during cross-examination, Endel goes on to explain that he gives great weight to whether inmates approve of the move, in his approving of a bedmove! (see attachment 19 Trial transcripts, page 742, lines 22-24).

Well, that’s great news to ask inmates who are enemies, or rival gang members, etc… and want to get together and take care of business. All they have to do is put in a kite to live together. Hell, I can think of a few child molesters I would like to talk into celling up together… Just by agreeing, we’re half way home on being approved. –

When top ESP administrators / warden(s) at a 24/7 maximum security prison do all they can to essentially force double-celling onto the inmate population, and then simply rubber-stamp bedmoves with little or no oversight, allowing whoever to move into a cell together, allowing unit caseworkers to simply cell-up who-ever… then is it really any wonder why there is so much inmate on inmate violence? So many cell fights, vicious beatings, stabbings, even deaths?? At what point does it stop becoming the fault of the inmates, and that of the prison officials?

For a clear view of what goes on in this prison, for a true glimpse into the daily, routine cycle of violence, that goes on within these walls, one has to look no further than the Correctional Emergency Response Team (CERT) video log books at ESP (see attachment 20: CERT video logbook entries dated from: 12-16-2006 to 7-3-07). This is just what gets reported and responded to. This is just a fraction of the violence that goes on here inside these cells on a daily basis, and it still goes on here to this day. The same cell assignment forms, the same forced double celling under threat of punishment, the same sloppy cell assignment(s) and disregard for inmate safety, the same lack of oversight and rubber-stamping approvals, all leading to the same daily violence, beatings, stabbings and even deaths.

Where did it all start? Where does it end? I don’t know. I, like many others in here, am a product of our environment and we struggle every day to try and not be consumed by it, but in the end becoming more of a problem than a solution. It’s a vicious cycle of inmate violence, staff abuse, inmate violence and even more staff abuse. We all need to take responsibility for our actions, but in here that is a one way street. ESP staff fail to see the blood on their hands, doing no wrong, admitting no wrong, focusing instead on damage control and protecting one another which only continues the cycle of frustration, anger and violence.

10.
Given all of the violence that goes on in this forced double cell environment, you would think warden McDaniel, awp Endel, and other ESP policy makers would have proper medical facilities and trained staff to treat the sick and injured. There are no such staff or facilities at ESP and on the day of Beltran’s death, he never stood a chance after he left the cell.

Registered nurse (RN) Gloria Carpenter testified that the ESP infirmary is not a hospital but a clinic-type setting and they don’t have the tools and medical supplies readily available and prepared to treat such injuries (see attachment 19: Trial transcripts, p. 540, lines 11-15).

Nurse Carpenter further testified that they were on their own. That they did not have a doctor on the premises, that they were making phone calls trying to get a hold of a doctor in another prison, but they could not reach one and eventually they had to rely on a nursing administrator for medical advice/treatment. (see attachment 19: Trial transcripts page 536, lines 18-24; also: page 537, lines 1-6).

Nurse Carpenter testified that the only thing medical staff in the infirmary were prepared and able to do to treat Beltran, was to provide CPR (see attachment 19: trial transcripts, page 541, lines 20-23). She further testified that she and other medical staff repeatedly requested that an ambulance be called by custody staff, that no one ever did call, and that they were unable to get an ambulance for Beltran to take him to an area hospital. That custody staff would not provide or call for an ambulance. (see attachment 19: trial transcripts, page 536, lines 1-8; also: page 542, lines 21-24 and page 543, lines 1-4).

To say the medical care at ESP is inadequate is an understatement. The medical care at ESP is grossly negligent given the warden McDaniel-created environment of violence and abuse. Dr William Noel, a medical expert retained by the ACLU, provided a report in December, 2007, that described his review of the medical records of thirty-five (35) prisoners here at ESP; in his report, Dr Noel stated: “The medical care provided at Ely State prison amounts to the grossest possible medical malpractice and the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering that I have ever encountered in my thirty-five (35) years of practice.”(see “Ely State Prison”, from: WikiPedia.com, also: http://www.aclu.org/pdfs/prison/reportbymedicalexpertonelystateprison.pdf, p. 1).

On March 6, 2009, the ACLU filed a class action lawsuit against the NDOC, governor Gibbons and other State officials on behalf of inmates at Ely State Prison regarding health care. In July, 2010, the suit was settled with the NDOC agreeing to implement sweeping changes. As of 2011, it remains to be seen what permanent changes will remain (see Rikers v. Gibbons: http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/health-care-ely-state-prison with links to the settlement agreement (2010 )).

11.
Before the stabbing and death of Beltran at ESP, the NDOC used to allow inmates state-wide to purchase typewriters from the prison canteen and to keep such property in their cells. Inmates were also allowed to do the same at ESP. I have never owned or purchased a typewriter before, but I had one in my possession and from it I pulled a metal rod, which I then used to stab Beltran with.

The investigating White Pine County sheriff’s office (WPCSO) detectives after Beltran’s death on December 28, 2006, wanted ESP staff to identify and explain who owned the typewriter used in his death and how did I end up with it in cell 5-A-31?? (see attachment 21, p. 15: WPCSO crime scene photos of typewriter in cell 5-A-31).

As for ownership, ESP staff trough Property Room Records determined the owner of the typewriter to me a Thomas Murray #55461 and that he was currently out on Parole. (see attachment 21, p. 16 Lt Tony Jones – Report on Typewriter, dated 1/10/2007). As for how it came into my possession, on January 10, 2007, ESP investigator Gerald Thompson of the Nevada Inspector General’s Office (IG) contacted WPSCO detective Mike Stolk and explained to him that he tracked the origin of the typewriter, that it had been the property of inmate Thomas Murray, of unit 8, probably a couple of years ago, and that inmate Murray is now out on Parole. Investigator Thompson went on to further explain that the typewriter could have passed through numerous hands during that time-frame before getting to inmate Potter. (see: Attachment 21, p. 18: WPCSO Supplement Report, dated January 25, 2007, page 2, bottom paragraph).

The problem with these statements are that they are a complete fabrication. With the exception of being on parole, investigator Thompson lied about everything else. Thomas Murray had not been living in Unit 8. He was not living in unit 8 when he paroled, nor did he parole a couple of years ago, as investigator Thompson misleads detectives into believing. Nothing passed through inmates’ hands for years…

Thomas Murray lived in Unit 5. His last cell assignment at ESP was 5-A-27, three (3) doors down from me, and he paroled from that cell around the last week of October, 2006, two 92) months prior to the death of inmate Beltran in cell 5-A-31. (see attachment 21, p. 19: cell shakedown log for cell 5-A-27: “Murray & Atwood”, dated October 11, 2006).

ESP investigator Thompson knew this information above and purposely lied and fabricated a story to cover those facts up. He intentionally mislead WPCSO detectives to prevent them from discovering the truth of Thomas Murray’s last known cell assignment at ESP and ascertain the true whereabouts of the typewriter. Investigator Thompson wanted to hide from WPCSO detectives the fact that Thomas Murray and his typewriter were in Unit 5 just prior to the typewriter being used in a homicide they were investigating, and most important of all, investigator Thompson wanted to prevent detectives from investigating and finding out that the only way a typewriter could have passed from inmate Murray’s cell into my hands, is with the help of Unit 5 staff.

Investigator Thompson purposely lied and intentionally mislead a homicide investigation in order to protect ESP staff from any involvement and to keep the NDOC safe from any potential liability regarding the death of inmate Beltran. (Unit 5 is a 24/7 lockdown unit. Any time an inmate leaves his cell, he is in restraints, handcuffed behind his back and under ESP staff escort and supervision. A typewriter does not fit under a cell door, it does not fit through the food slot).

I.G. investigator Thompson arrived that morning and was gone, left ESP within the hour. He could care less that a C.O. picked up the weapon and walked off with it; showing it to other C.O.’s around the prison. He could care less that there is not a single photo or video-frame footage of Beltran until a sheet was thrown over him. That all staff video recordings are distorted and unviewable, and then clears up and becomes viewable after the body is covered. All investigator Thompson was concerned about was that his cat back home had the sniffles and he wanted to take her to the vet. On December 28, 2006, instead of investigating a homicide and any staff misconduct/involvement, investigator Thompson was at the vet. He did not even stick around for the WPCSO detectives.

When an investigator for the Inspector General’s office is more concerned with his cat than investigating an inmate homicide, that is cause for some major concern. And when an investigator from the IG’s office lies to and fabricates a story to mislead other law enforcement officers to prevent them from uncovering potential prison staff involvement, then everyone out there in the public needs to stop and say, What the hell is going on in there at ESP?!?!

Because until the general public stands up and starts demanding some accountability of the NDOC and of the Inspector General’s office, whose responsibility it is to police prison staff, then you’re going to keep hearing about ESP staff abuses, inmate beatings, and unusual deaths. It is exactly why you do hear about such things to this day here at ESP.
This is just one case, one instance, where staff lying and covering up can be shown and in a rare instance proven and documented. You can see the standard operating approach that they decide to take, sweep it under the rug and hope no one on the outside takes notice and makes issue of it, so that you the public, their real bosses, will never know about it and other staff misconduct.

Well, now you do know about it, now you know about the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Beltran’s family in regards to this incident (see: Helen Jane Romero et al. v. Nevada Department of Corrections et al., docket # 2:08-cv-00808-RCJ-LRL).

And until each of the taxpaying public starts calling for change, responsibility and accountability of the NDOC and until you start holding ESP officials, such as warden McDaniel and associate warden (AWP) Endel, responsible for how they run and manage their prison and staff, then be prepared for a lot more lawsuits like the one above and other similar ones.
As of this date, warden McDaniel and associate warden Endel are no longer at Ely State Prison. After all that has occurred here at ESP, the medical malpractices, staff abuses, inmate deaths and lawsuits, director Greg Cox has seen fit to reward warden McDaniel for his fine management at ESP by appointing him deputy director of operations for the NDOC, placing him next in line for director. The public doesn’t have to worry about McDaniel running a prison anymore, you all just have to now worry about him running an entire prison system. Former awp Endel has been enjoying the fruits of his excellent incompetence at ESP as well, taking such skills to Parole and Probation where he is now in charge of those to be released back into your communities.

If Adam Endel approves of and finds me “suitable housing” for a protective Custody inmate, then how does that make you feel as a public that this same person is now deciding which violent, sexual predator, inmates should be approved for parole/probation and placed back onto the streets next to your sons & daughters? Everyone should take notice and be concerned with his decision-making abilities.

I have written these words so that others can know, so the public can know, how these events unfolded between Beltran and I. Aware of the actions and decisions of all involved, and so you can know how easily all of this could have been prevented. When people read all of these articles and comments out there about the senseless depravity of Ely State Prison, know that it is true and not just some more inmate sniveling bullshit. Now you can see for yourselves, with the NDOC’s own documents, how much merit is in these articles.

The situation here at Ely is beyond deplorable… imagine if it was your son, brother, friend, cousin, uncle, husband or father who has been thrown into this black pit of hopelessness, forced to swim with the sharks or drown in a murky pool or bloody water. The suffering, all of these things are real. As a public, your concern should not be with me but with those in here not doing life without parole, bit with those in here forced to live under such psychologically harmful and debilitating conditions to then one day be released back into society. Your neighborhoods. You don’t have to treat inmates like animals to be “tough on crime.” We are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment, and the sooner ESP can adopt that into its actual management and treatment of its inmates, then the better off we will all be in here, inmates and staff alike, as well as society as a whole.
I don’t deny or downplay what I’ve done, or the tragedy that was committed by my hands and for which I will surely and dearly pay. I can say – not with pride, but with truth – that I’m a criminal, a murdered and an administrative puppet on a string. I can’t hide it or deny it, but what about the people that keep us here and move us around like pawns on a chess board, who are fully aware of how we act, react, think, feel and see things as they use our own ideologies and criminal ways against us?… What about them, what can they say?… What can they say about themselves?… How can they look themselves in the mirror and not hide the truth of what they are?

In Truth and Sincerity,
Douglas Scott Potter
Ely State Prison, Nevada
October 14, 2011

Received, typed Nov-Dec 2011. On Dec 28th it is five years ago that this tragedy happened. What has changed?
Douglas Scott Potter’s story can be read also with the attachments on his Scribd-site: http://www.scribd.com/DouglasScottPotter

Attorney General charges ESP inmate with May murder of another prisoner

From: Ely Times:
Published: Friday, November 11, 2011 10:56 AM PST
Ely Times staff

Carson City – Five months after Ely State Prison inmate James Ofeldt was accused of killing his cellmate, the Nevada Attorney General’s Office has filed a criminal complaint.

The AG’s office told The Ely Times on Nov. 4 that a criminal complaint was filed recently charging Ofeldt, 28, with one count of open murder in the death of inmate Erik Houser, then 32.

Read the rest here.

A Suspicious (and Lonely) Death in Maine State Prison’s Lockdown Unit

March 19, 2010

SOLITARY WATCH GUEST AUTHOR
Guest Post by Stan Moody

Editors’ note: Our first guest post on Solitary Watch News is by Stan Moody, a former state representative and chaplain at the Maine State Prison, where he ministered to inmates in the supermax unit. Moody, who currently serves as pastor at the Meeting House Church in Manchester, Maine, is the author of the books Crisis in Evangelical Scholarship and McChurched: 300 Million Served and Still Hungry.

In February, Moody testified at a hearing in the Maine State Legislature on a proposed bill to limit solitary confinement in the state’s prisons. As part of his testimony, he told the story of a prisoner who died alone in his segregation cell; he tells the same story, in more detail, in this guest post. More of Moody’s writings can be found at www.stanmoody.com.

≡≡≡≡≡

I wrote this article on St. Valentine’s Day, a day that conjures up a wide range of experiences, from first love to the famous massacre on February 14, 1929…

There are 4,000 or more people incarcerated in Maine at the moment. Keeping watch over them are hundreds of prison guards, most of whom would rather be home than spending love’s holiday doing cavity search or bed counts. Happy Valentine’s Day!

There is a widow in upstate NY who reels from a double-whammy of a brilliant, successful husband who confessed to a sexual assault and the memory of his ashes arriving 6 months later from Maine State Prison (MSP) with the notice that he had died of “natural causes.” Then another whammy–finding out 6 weeks later, after she had buried him, that it was a homicide and that prison officials had known as much within minutes of his death–officially, within 2 days.

There are others who come to mind who are reeling, as well, from conflict over what to do about this situation that, if brought into the light, will explode into a full-blown crisis. Maine Department of Corrections officials are on pins and needles, wondering what is going to happen when this explodes. I was scheduled to give testimony on the conditions at the supermax unit at MSP that I feel gave rise to the death of inmate Sheldon Weinstein, a prospect that threw a wrench into my Valentine’s Day.

I have a picture in my mind of the Attorney General’s Office vainly searching for a good option to prosecute somebody for this death without smearing the prison system. It has been nearly 10 months since Weinstein died alone in his cell of a ruptured spleen presumed to have been caused by an inmate assault 4 days earlier. It is not as though they had to go looking for a suspect or that the evidence was scattered over 50 states. Nobody was going anywhere. Justice is slow and nearly blind, but it gets slower and blinder when a state agency is implicated.

It is easier to digest this story if we can somehow de-humanize people caught up in the meat grinder we call justice–guards and prisoners alike. Whether you like it or not, however, all players in the justice drama are human beings, Weinstein included. It is that very humanity that cries out for reform of the efficient, military, detached environment that we call Maine State Prison.

It may be time for me to share my story.

It was Friday, April 24, 2009. I was finishing my rounds as Chaplain at the Special Management Unit (Supermax) when I came to the end of the dreaded B1 corridor, looked in and saw Sheldon Weinstein sitting on his wheelchair with his legs across his bunk, 10 feet away. He smiled when he saw me and joked about how old men like him and me were targets in prison. I saw his hugely black eye and asked him if he had other injuries. He pointed to his stomach. He then asked me if I could help get him some toilet paper. He had been using his pillow case, but since he had no pillow, it didn’t matter anyway, I suppose.

I spent probably 10 minutes talking/shouting with Sheldon through a steel cell door. I then left and asked a guard on duty to see that he got some toilet paper.

I came in the next morning and was told that Weinstein was found dead at around 6:00 pm that evening. His posture had been reversed. He was lying across his bunk, with his feet in his wheelchair. He had yellow complexion, suggesting liver or spleen, his stomach was distended, and rigor mortis had begun to set in, indicating that he probably had died within an hour or two after I left.

My amateur diagnosis of cause of death was ruptured spleen, confirmed by autopsy within 2 days. Almost universally, the reaction of captains, guards, sergeants and inmates was, “Good riddance!” “One less mouth to feed!” One prisoner, however, had taken it upon himself before the assault to wheel confessed sex offender Weinstein to the chow hall to prevent him from being spit upon.

When they found him, Weinstein did have toilet paper.

There is a prisoner in segregation who is awaiting indictment for murder. I have had a number of conversations with that prisoner. If I were his attorney, I would be licking my chops over this one. Did Weinstein die of an assault, or did he die of medical and security neglect? If there is a murder indictment, will any prison staff be implicated as accessory? Since someone brought toilet paper to him, and since he was unlikely to have been able to maneuver to the cell door, and since his sitting position was reversed, did he die from the assault on the previous Monday, or did something further happen to him on Friday?

Has the pathology report on the condition of the spleen been analyzed by other medical professionals to determine if it were likely to have taken four days to bleed out?

Adding intrigue to the situation, the guard whom I asked to provide toilet paper was placed on Administrative Leave almost immediately. The guard who was on duty in the housing unit where Weinstein was assaulted was fired.

The test for first degree murder is malice aforethought–that is, that the person or persons involved plotted and intended to kill. That, however, is problematic in the case of Maine State Prison. Here’s why.

Assaults of inmates by other inmates not only are common there but may be, some believe, tacitly encouraged. In Weinstein’s case, it began with the decision to place him in a minimum security housing unit notorious for attacks on sex offenders. Beating sex offenders and “rats” (people who give the names of those who beat them) was so common that it had become routine. The victim would be given the signature black eye and be placed in segregation for his own protection for months, while those who carried out the assault would often be out within 10 days.

I have written an exhaustive narrative on the circumstances surrounding the death of Prisoner Weinstein but will hold that narrative until I sense that there is movement toward justice in this case. There can be no rationalization for his crime. Yet, he was not sentenced to the death to which he was consigned. He had a surprising background that defies common stereotypes of sex offenders. The way in which prison officials handled the matter with his surviving family speaks volumes about a profound failure of conscience.

The death of Sheldon Weinstein has changed my life remarkably. While both prisoners and guards cannot seem to get beyond his crime, I was confronted with a real life situation from which I could not in good conscience walk away. It has cost me dearly in terms of my political stature and will, I presume, continue to do so. It has opened my eyes to the fallacy that nearly all people in government, at the end of the day, are good people who really want to do the right thing. I have seen a level of contradiction that I could have gone on blithely the rest of my life without seeing.

Will Weinstein’s death be subjected to the level of investigation it deserves? Will his death become a catalyst for addressing the system of favoritism and influence peddling that prevails at the prison? Who can know the answer to these questions? Thus far, there has been no indication of change to a system that mirrors the “blue line of silence.”

My hope is that there will be a few Department of Corrections employees who will summon the courage to speak out against systemic practices within the prison that are the root cause of discrimination and inconsistent discipline.

Sheldon Weinstein: brilliant; Jewish; sex offender; dead within 6 months of incarceration. Who cares?