ACLU of Utah files federal lawsuit over use of tear gas in prison’s mental health unit

From: Salt Lake Tribune, June 3rd 2013:

ACLU of Utah says gas used in mental-health unit to subdue prisoner spread to enclosed cells.

By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune, Jun 03 2013

The ACLU of Utah filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging constitutional rights of inmates housed in the mental-health unit at the Utah State Prison were violated when tear gas used to subdue one inmate spread into other enclosed cells.

Correctional officers fired tear gas on Aug. 3, 2011, after one inmate refused to return to his cell from a courtyard, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Utah. The gas was pumped through air vents into the fully enclosed cells of other inmates, causing burning eyes, lungs and skin. Many inmates thought the wing was on fire.

Read the rest here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56406088-78/inmates-complaint-gas-prison.html.csp

Disability Law Center Sues Prison Over Inmate Access

From: Salt Lake City News Blog
Dec 7th 2012
by Stephen Dark

When attorney Aaron Kinikini went to see his client at the Utah State Prison, warden Alfred Bigelow refused him access. Now, Kinikini is suing the Draper prison to let him meet with an inmate.
Suing on behalf of inmate Jeremy Haas, the Disability Law Center has filed a civil-rights action against Bigelow and Utah Department of Corrections Director Tom Patterson—who today announced that he’ll resign from his post in January—along with a temporary-restraining-order motion seeking Kinkin’s immediate access to Haas. 
Haas was one of four inmates with mental-health diagnoses being held in solitary confinement who City Weekly featured in a story called “Lost in the Hole” in late September.
The lawsuit stems from a Sept. 14, 2012, visit to the prison by Kinikini and fellow DLC attorney Laura Boswell to meet with Haas over concerns about his treatment in the prison. Under federal statute, according to the lawsuit, DLC can conduct abuse and neglect investigations in the prison.
But Bigelow refused Kinikini access because he had two misdemeanor convictions on his record, namely a possession and a DUI charge dating back from 2008. When the attorneys asked what was the legal basis for not letting Kinikini in, given that he was licensed to practice law by the Utah State Bar and the Utah Supreme Court, Bigelow told them, according to the lawsuit, “that he was merely enforcing an ‘unwritten practice’ of USP and the Utah Department of Corrections.” 
Prison PIO Steve Gerhke said that, per prison policy, the UDC does not comment on pending litigation.
While attorney Boswell was allowed to visit with Haas and see his living conditions, Kinikini, who was selected by Haas to represent him, sat outside in the parking, awaiting her return. Barring Haas access to his attorney violated his constitutional rights, the DLC motion argues.
The lawsuit hypothesizes that Bigelow barring Kinikini, a protege of recently deceased civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, reflected an apparently “unwritten” regulation designed to deter inmates from being visited by people who might pose a security risk.
“When applied to Haas and his attorney, Kinikini, this practice is nothing more than an exaggerated, possibly discriminatory, response to generic prison-security concerns,” the lawsuit stated.

“Waiting For The World To Give Us A Reason To Live”: Solitary Confinement in Utah

From: SolitaryWatch, Oct. 24th, 2012
By Sal Rodriguez

Utah State Prison’s Uinta 1 facility serves as the prison’s super-maximum security unit, where inmates are held in solitary confinement. Inmates in Uinta 1 may be there for disciplinary infractions, notoriety reasons, protective custody, or because they are security/escape risks. The unit is divided into eight sections with twelve inmates in each section, for a total of 96 maximum inmates. Currently, there are 90 inmates in Uinta 1. The Utah Department of Corrections, in response to a government records request by Solitary Watch, claims it has no records regarding its use of segregation.

Several inmates have recently written Solitary Watch about the conditions in Uinta 1.

L., who has been in Uinta 1 for five months and previously served 28 months there, reports that he is only able to leave his cell three days a week, for a shower and 1 hour alone in a concrete yard. He reports that, in being transported to a 15 minute shower, “we have to wear a spit mask over our faces and handcuffed from behind with a dog leash hooked to us.”

“The rest of the time except on the shower days we are locked down in our cells with the door window closed so you can’t see out,” he writes.

A., who has been in Uinta 1 for a year, adds that, “just the other day, the [Correctional Officers] came and shook our cells down and took away all of our hygiene. They took away shampoo, lotion, conditioner, everything…they also don’t give us anything to clean our cells with.”

A. is in Uinta 1 for his own protection, following what he says was a decision to leave gang life after much “self-study.” Despite this, he says, he is treated as if he committed a  serious offense.

Inmate Brandon Green, who has frequently written on the conditions of Uinta 1, describes the environment in Uinta 1 as reinforcing a vicious cycle in which inmates placed in solitary usually end up back not long after they are released. Green, who has been in Uinta 1 for five years, previously served 18 months in Uinta 1 before a brief period on parole before returning to Utah State Prison. He has been held in Uinta 1 following an escape attempt and refusal to take psychiatric drugs, which he says will only harm his health.

“So alone. So much internal turbulence with nothing like T.V., radio, magazines or conversation to hide [this pain] beneath,” he writes, “a man leaves this place to go to general population or to a less secure facility where you have electronics and a cellie. You can just count down the months before he will return…We learn we can do without anything. And we become content with nothing. The more they take away from us year after year, the more family disappears, the more one doesn’t want to go home, doesn’t want a wife and a job and bills and an Amerikkan future…It is like waiting for the world to give us a reason to live. But the world just keeps giving us reasons to not give a shit.”

This situation leads many inmates to report severe mental health problems that are aggravated by the long-term isolation. The prison routinely responds to such crises by placing suicidal inmates in a strip cell, where they are to be alone in a cell with  and checked every fifteen minutes. Included in many of these cells are cameras.

L. writes that “if someone is gonna kill themselves they take them and out to a strip cell and you sleep on the hard floor and treated like a dog.”

A. reports that “if I lose control because of something I have no control over, they’ll punish me and put me on strip cell for three days…when a mentally ill inmate feels suicidal, they send us to the infirmary to be on suicide watch…then we get from suicide watch back to Uinta 1 and the staff put us back in the strip cell when we get back to Uinta 1.”

In Uinta 1, suicide is not an uncommon occurrence. In 2009, two prisoners in Uinta 1 committed suicide. One was Danny Gallegos, who was found hanged in his cell in June. Another was a friend of Green, Spencer “Spider” Hooper, a “Pink Floyd fan and singer on medications for schizophrenia and depression.” Months after a previous suicide attempt, Hooper was found dead in February 2009, hanging in his cell.

A. and L. also independently confirm that sandbags at the cell doors of inmates gather bugs, which enter their cells. “They got sandbags around all the cells but never pick them up and clean under them so there’s all kinds of bugs and dirt that comes right under our doors,” A. writes.

Green also writes about the declining array of services provided to Uinta 1 inmates. “Years ago indigent captives received five envelopes a week. Now its one. We had five outside contacts a week. Now one. We used to be fed enough to stay full. Now we are starved. We used to have shampoo and lotion. Now we don’t. We grumble for an hour each time something is taken from us. Then move right along to inventing the creative willpower to survive with no penpals and mail, a full stomach or clean hair. Moving right along. We expect tragedy.”

Solitary Watch will continue to report on Uinta 1 as more information becomes available.

Brandon Green welcomes letters. His mailing address is:
Brandon Green #147075, Uinta One 305, Utah State Prison, PO Box 250, Draper, Utah 84020. His blog, updated by an outside supporter, can be seen here.

Voices from Solitary: From the Vortex of Uinta One

From: Solitary Watch
June 14th 2012

The following comes to Solitary Watch from inmate Brandon Green at Utah State Prison, Draper’s Uinta One facility. The facility currently holds 91 inmates in solitary confinement, including the state’s death row. Green has been in isolation for five years, after a brief period released from prison before being rearrested.  He has been corresponding with Solitary Watch since February, and has been a prolific writer, chronicling his harrowing experience in isolation. He has described his situation, and the challenge of expressing his situation, this way: “I told my cousin that it’s like he and everyone
out on the street is building a life, a “house,” while we sit holding up the roof to our past “houses” as it slowly just crumbles. How does one who is busy building understand how it is to just sit and hold up a roof? They can’t.” The following is a sampling of his writings. –Sal Rodriguez

Where to begin? How to begin? One fellow captive described Uinta One as a vortex. It just keeps sucking you in. My first experience of solitary was in 2004. I was around 21 years of age. I was put in a shower in handcuffs as they searched my cell and I slipped handcuffs from behind my back to the front, then was unable to put them back when ordered to. Thus solitary. My first taste.

I remember crying a lot at first. At night mostly, as the night crept up on me. My neighbors would want my cookies from my white sacks. And they offered all these colorful pills. “Green to sleep, red to wake up,” they’d say. So I fished off my cookies under my door to my neighbor so I could sleep instead of cry.

I remember paroling in 2006 after I’d done two stints in solitary. My mom picked me up and just to hear the music on the radio gave me cold chills. Being so long without music. Mom took me to a restaurant and we
sat down to eat. I got nervous because of all the people, hopped up, went to the car and waited for her as I listened to music. I sat paranoid looking in the mirrors at all these people coming and going from their cars to stores and back. I felt like…like a bad guy. Outlaw. That no one will know what it was like to sit alone for so long with just my thoughts.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t imagining my moms “just cried out face” as she hopped back in the car and drove us home. “How could he,” she probably thought “after all that time. Does he hate me?”
“How could she,” I thought, “after years of eating all alone, how could she not know I’d be nervous.”

Neither understanding. Both blaming the other while feeling guilty ourselves.

It’s been almost five years since we’ve spoken.

I sit going on five years straight in the hole. A sound of buzzing comes from my exhaust vent because I place a piece of paper there to create sound. My door is plugged off, with white sacks, except for a small place at the bottom to allow air and mail. I go through these periods of extreme abdominal pains, blood shot eyes, dizziness because of my Hepatitis-C. I’ve not shaved or had a haircut for almost five years. I do not leave my cell unless guards do a search or I get blood tests for my disease.

My knee is pulled because of overexercise and pacing. To pace, then turn, then pace, then turn, really screws up the knees after a while.

We have these sandbags surrounding our doors so we cannot fish. Bugs get trapped under these and set up little colonies and infiltrate our cells. Most of these toilets do not flush correctly and most cell toilets stink with green moss inside the bowls. Most air vents are clogged and one can taste the city exhaust smoke as one chews ones carrots.

Just this week, a captive was antagonized by a guard. The captive requested mental health. Was laughed at (at his door and over the cell electronic speaker). He snapped, took all his “fish oil” medications, pulled his cell sprinkler then proceeded to swallow the metal sprinkler.
He’s been gone days. Probably in section four–suicide watch.

Section one is death row. Sections two and three are general hole, intensive management unit. Section four is suicide watch with an officer in section 24/7 with 15 minute checks. All other sections have hourly checks.

Uinta One tortures 96 people in all. 8 sections of 12 a piece.
We cannot see out our doors into the sections because of a metal window flap that is clipped on. Month back someone swallowed a window clip.

Some captives have been known to stuff shampoo bottles up their ass. Shove staples in their penis. Head butt the walls. Bite holes in their wrists with their teeth. Cut out veins with fingernails–I’m guilty of that one.

No phone calls since April 2008. No radio, T.V., magazines, visits, sunshine. Here in Uinta One we are handcuffed behind the back, dogleashed, pillow-case over the head, shackled, taken to and from shower every Tues, Thurs, Saturday. It’s degrading.

Trust me

Waking up to a nosebleed
Falling Asleep in a nightmare
Growing old minus the growing up
Adolescent at almost thirty
Buried in Cement
Pig mindgames, taxpayers hate, facial hair
Cant kill yourself because they watch
Camera mounted up in the corner
Razor cut scars on inside of elbow
Brain damage, swollen liver, tired heart
Does the crazy man know he’s crazy
Dead people don’t know they’re dead
Do those who hate me count as family
Those who can’t trust me don’t count as friends
King James! Version of the Holy Bible
Verses one of his slaves’ version of peoples liberation
White nation labor aristocrats bought off by King
Off with their heads–Away with their playthings
Give them cowards three meals and smelly mattress
Flatscreen TVs
Tuned 24/7 to the new
Revolutionary TV
Lynch mob soda repackaged justice soda
Law and order on can
Inside a caffeinated Jim Crow
Flavored with a War on Drugs
AKA PIG social control quota
Waking up to the nightmare
Falling asleep to the mindwash
Old man at almost thirty buried in cement
Growing old without the giving up

Voices from Solitary: “The Isolated Prisoner”

From: SolitaryWatch
February 18, 2012
by Sal Rodriguez

The following poem comes from an inmate at Utah State Prison’s Draper supermax unit. Initially convicted of a non-violent drug offense, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison, he has been held in isolation for more than three years. He is also corresponding for an upcoming Solitary Watch article on the practice of solitary confinement in Utah. He is held in his cell 46 hours and 45 minutes straight before being allotted 75 minutes to shower and use the phone…

Isolated tension so thick you can see it, feel it when you walk into our section, or hear it if you stop and pay attention.

Intense anger and open fury evoked by constant frustration. Hidden cries and silent tears from hopes of false delusions.

Shattered dreams and broken promises from Men who played against reality, or some just out here on some type of adversity.

Still, the outcome is the same, a cell designed for my undeclared torture, for an inconceivable amount of time intended deep within the future.

Forty-six hours in a single cell with the very minimal needs given, while my sanity and well-being is constantly in a struggle of being taken.

Suffering from the hands of time that seem to never turn, while anticipating some type of unfulfilling yearn.

Sentenced to this heinous life like a chaotic scream! Stranded in a prison within a prison, designed with immorality.

Death no solution – SLC Tribune Editorial

June 25th Editorial
Salt Lake City Tribune

As a family member of a murder victim I always pay attention to the legal wrangling and appeals of convicted killers. I read death penalty pros and cons and listen to descriptions of executions.

For 25 years, the man who murdered my mother has been on death row in California. The attorney general’s office there used to call me yearly to report on the appeals process. So many years of waiting for the sentence to be carried out does not leave me with any kind of closure. I would have closure already if he had just been sentenced to life in prison without parole.
This man also has two children. When I saw the daughter of Ronnie Lee Gardner interviewed, I felt sad. That was her father being put to death. She now will also suffer permanent loss.
The death of my mother’s murderer will not bring her back; my children will still not know their grandmother. But the family of the convicted murderer will lose someone. The State of California, like the State of Utah, will have committed an act that resolves nothing, took 25 years, and unnecessarily cost tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
Beth Dunford
Park City

Prison Officials Investigating Stabbing

http://pandora.bonnint.net/video/embed-p.php?id=11012481

Video Courtesy of KSL.com

June 2nd, 2010 @ 3:12pm
By Nicole Gonzales
Ksl.com
DRAPER — An inmate who was stabbed several times at the Utah State Prison in Draper Wednesday morning is now recovering in a local hospital.

The Utah Department of Corrections says this was inmate-on-inmate crime, and they say they’re still looking into why it happened.

Around 11:30 a.m., prison officials say one prisoner stabbed another inside an area of the prison called the Uinta Unit. Apparently, a male inmate in his 30s was stabbed several times in the back and legs, near his cell.

“We got some information somehow that this stabbing had occurred, multiple stab wounds,” said Steve Gehrke, Department of Corrections spokesman. “They were able to stabilize him in the infirmary, stop the bleeding, and then he was transported to the University Medical Center.”

The man was taken to the hospital by ambulance in stable condition.

Officers aren’t sure who is responsible for the stabbing. They are also still investigating what kind of weapon was used and how it got into the prison facility.

Gehrke says visitors will still be allowed in the prison Wednesday; there is no lockdown.
“They are restricting movement in the area where it happened,” Gehrke said. “It happened in the Uintas, so it’s over in that area and they’re restricting movement there.”

Corrections officials say they will be conducting interviews all day to try to determine exactly what happened.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com