America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Walnut Grove

This is from the series in MotherJones Magazine

“A picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world.”

—By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella
May. 13, 2013

Serving time in prison is not supposed to be pleasant. Nor, however, is it supposed to include being raped by fellow prisoners or staff, beaten by guards for the slightest provocation, driven mad by long-term solitary confinement, or killed off by medical neglect. These are the fates of thousands of prisoners every year—men, women, and children housed in lockups that give Gitmo and Abu Ghraib a run for their money.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around, and while not all of the facilities described in this series have all of the problems we explore, some stand out as particularly bad actors. We’ve compiled this subjective list of America’s 10 worst lockups (plus a handful of dishonorable mentions) based on three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with criminal-justice reform advocates concerning the penal facilities with the grimmest claims to infamy.

We will roll out the final contenders this week, complete with photos and video. Number 9 is a corporate-run facility where children allegedly have been subjected to a heartrending pattern of brutal beatings, rapes, and isolation.

Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (Leake County, Mississippi)

Number of prisoners: Capacity 1,450 (actual population in flux)

Who’s in charge: (current) Lawrence Mack, warden; (former) George Zoley, CEO, the GEO Group; Christopher B. Epps, commissioner, Mississippi Department of Corrections

The basics: Efforts are underway to clean up and clear out Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility, which one federal judge called “a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts” visited upon children as young as 13. For years, the kids at Walnut Grove were subjected to a gauntlet of physical and sexual assaults, and psychological abuse including long-term solitary confinement. All of this took place under the management of private prison conglomerate the GEO Group.

The backlash: Evidence gathered for a report by the Justice Department and a lawsuit by the ACLU and Southern Poverty Law Center “paints a picture of such horror as should be unrealized anywhere in the civilized world,” Federal District Judge Carleton Reeves wrote in a 2012 court order. The court found that conditions at Walnut Grove violated the Constitution, not to mention state and federal civil and criminal laws. Guards regularly had sex with their young charges and the facility’s pattern of “brutal” rapes among prisoners was the worst of “any facility anywhere in the nation” (court’s emphasis). Guards also were deemed excessively violent—beating, kicking, and punching “handcuffed and defenseless” youths and frequently subjecting them to chemical restraints such as pepper spray, even for insignificant infractions.

The guards also sold drugs on site and staged “gladiator-style” fights. “It’d be like setting up a fight deal like you would with two dogs,” one former resident told NPR. “They actually bet on it. It was payday for the guards.” Said another: “A lot of times, the guards are in the same gang. If the inmates wanted something done, they got it. If they wanted a cell popped open to handle some business about fighting or something like that, it just pretty much happened.” Kids who complained or tried to report these incidents faced harsh retribution, including long stints in solitary.

Judge Reeves wrote that the state had turned a blind eye to the prison company’s abuses: Walnut Grove’s charges, “some of whom are mere children, are at risk every minute, every hour, every day.” In accord with a court decree, the facility’s youngest residents have been moved to a state-run juvenile facility, and Mississippi canceled its contract with GEO—which still runs some 65 prisons nationwide. The contract was handed over to another private prison company, Management and Training Corporation, which also has been a target of criticism for advocates of criminal justice reform.

Also read:The Lost Boys,” about what happens when you put kids in an adult isolation facility.

Watch: Local news report on a protest by Walnut Grove parents.

The Pelikkkan Bay factor: An indictable offense

Published in: SF Bay View, Jan. 17th 2013
by Abdul Olugbala Shakur, Mutope Duguma, Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa and Abasi Banda

Pacovilla graphic CCPOA chapter pres. Greg Kissick warning re Corcoran budget cuts 101112
Prior to 1987, the CDCR had a policy of segregating alleged members of rival prison groups while assigned to the Security Housing Unit (SHU) exercise yard. This policy was designed to minimize prison violence, and based on available statistics, this was an effective policy.

On Pacovilla.com, a blog for CDCR correctional officers, this  illustration for the Oct. 11, 2012, story headlined “Dark tidings: Communities warned of security cuts at Corcoran Prison” appears to hark back to Corcoran’s bloody first 12 years after it opened in 1988, when 30 prisoners were shot by guards. The excuse for the shootings were “gladiator fights,” as they came to be known after the public eventually learned, via 60 Minutes and much other mainstream coverage, that guards were coercing fights between prisoners of different races for the guards’ entertainment and gambling. Pacovilla’s caption reads, “Greg Kissick, CSP-Corcoran’s CCPOA Chapter President, notified the people of Middle Earth of looming danger in the realm.”

But 1987 marked a change in this policy, when New Folsom State Prison partially integrated their SHU exercise yards. This partial integration resulted in a visible increase in prison violence, but what most people in society were not aware of is the internal dynamics which were conducive towards the facilitation of that abrupt increase in violence. That internal dynamics were the new Folsom State Prison administration and staff micro-managing and orchestrating the conditions, designed to perpetuate both racial and rival group violence.

For example, let’s say a conflict breaks out between a New Afrikan and white prisoner. Instead of trying to contain the conflict, the pigs would move these same two individuals to another unit within the SHU, and now the conflict has spread to another unit. Now more people are involved, escalating the violence and racial conflict. The pigs would then move these same individuals to another unit, further escalating the violence. And being that prisoners are so caught up in the struggle for survival, we tend to become oblivious to the administrative manipulation of the conditions.

I became aware of staff manipulation when they attempted to insert me into the conflict, being that they knew that I had zero tolerance for New Afrikan prisoners being attacked. So they took me out of Bed Rock (i.e., Behavioral Control Unit), moved me in the cell with Brotha Fela, then they moved me in the cell with Brotha Abasi Banda. Then they moved everybody who was in the initial conflict into the section I was in. It became very intense. I, along with Brotha Abasi, became mediators for the conflicting parties.

What most people in society were not aware of is the internal dynamics which were conducive towards the facilitation of that abrupt increase in violence. That internal dynamics were the new Folsom State Prison administration and staff micro-managing and orchestrating the conditions, designed to perpetuate both racial and rival group violence.

Though we initiated a cease fire in that particular unit, the pigs were doing everything in their power to undermine our efforts. Their anticipation of me mobilizing an attack proved to be an inaccurate assessment of my character. At this point, the pigs moved more prisoners into our section who had been involved in the initial conflict. Truthfully, the yard was on the verge of exploding. Prisoners were allegedly being intercepted for allegedly trying to bring knives to the exercise yard. The pigs’ manipulation reached its desperation point one day when administration pulled me out to the front office and point-blank told me they would have the gunman leave his post and allow me and the Brothas to attack the whites.

The pigs were mad at the whites for allegedly stabbing a guard, and they wanted me to go after this one individual because he was scheduled for release. I stood up and cursed them all and told them to take me back to my cell. When I got back to the unit, I told everybody what had occurred. They didn’t like that.
About two days later, the gang unit raided our cells – my cell and the cells of the Brothas who associated with myself and Brotha Abasi. They also took us to the prison hospital for x-rays to determine if we had weapons in our rectum cavity. All the other Brothas were kept in holding cells indoors while our cells were being searched. I was kept in an outdoor holding cell approximately four hours. They took us back to our cells between 11:30 and midnight.

Them pigs had tore up our cells. Everything was on the floor, personal pictures as well as letters from family.
A little after midnight the gang unit came to our cell and told me I was being moved back to Bed Rock for a conspiracy. Everybody knew that this was a blatant lie. There were Brothas that night allegedly in possession of knives and hacksaw blades, but I was the only one sent to Bed Rock, and they found nothing in me and Brotha Abasi’s cell. But this was punishment because I had refused to spread this racial conflict and be their little pawn.

The pigs’ manipulation reached its desperation point one day when administration pulled me out to the front office and point-blank told me they would have the gunman leave his post and allow me and the Brothas to attack the whites.

People, the above story is very relevant. It exemplifies the orchestrated conditions manufactured by the CDCR, designed to ignite and perpetuate conflict between prisoners.

Being that the CDCR did not get the desired effect from this partial integration, toward the end of 1988, they fully integrated the SHU exercise yard. Those of us who had the capacity to resolve this conflict, the pigs placed us in Bed Rock under false allegations, and as a result, all hell broke out, the prelude to Corcoran State Prison. The conflict was being transported to the SHU yard at Corcoran SP, which resulted in the rapid increase in prison violence. Corcoran SP, at the peak of this CDCR-sanctioned conflict, was averaging two to four assaults a day.

At that time, most prisoners did not understand what was happening, but those of us who have been very active in the movement knew that something wasn’t right. We asked ourselves: Why would the CDC change their policy at this juncture, especially when the policy was proven to be effective? The answer appeared to be a simple one: to intentionally increase prison violence between alleged members of rival prison groups.
We soon discovered that it wasn’t that simple. We realized that the CDC was using us as a means to develop the statistics – propaganda – to justify the building of Pelican Bay State Prison and its over $200 million price tag.

The CDCR justification for Pelican Bay is rooted in two primary criteria: 1) to isolate the so-called worst of the worst, who have proved too violent to be held at other prisons, and 2) to presumably minimize prison violence.

The CDCR reported an increase in prison violence to the media on a number of occasions between 1987 and 1990. What the CDCR intentionally neglected to tell the public is that it was their policy, both in practice and intent, that was responsible for the rapid increase in prison violence!

Also, there were two other factors that must be considered. In 1987, the CDCR implemented a “shoot to kill” policy, and in 1988, they changed weapons and ammunition. The new bullet was designed to blow up in our bodies – a guaranteed kill!

Based on the evidence, the policies implemented at both New Folsom and Corcoran state prisons were not only a prelude to Pelican Bay State Prison but were specifically designed to justify and add credence to the CDCR campaign to build Pelican Bay State Prison. If there is any doubt in your mind about these allegations, ask yourself: Why would the CDCR integrate the SHU exercise yard at a time when they knew violence between the different rival groups was guaranteed to break out?

What the CDCR intentionally neglected to tell the public is that it was their policy, both in practice and intent, that was responsible for the rapid increase in prison violence!

The CDCR was not being pressured by state politicians or by a court order or by the public to integrate known rival gangs and group members. So what was the CDCR’s motivation? Also, consider this: The CDCR knew without a doubt that by integrating the SHU exercise yards, all hell was going to break out, so why would the CDCR adopt a “shoot to kill” policy at the same time the forced integration policy was being implemented? And then introduce a new weapon that was designed to facilitate the “shoot to kill” policy?

In a five year period, the CDCR murdered 27 prisoners. At least seven were murdered on the integrated SHU exercise yard at Corcoran State Prison and approximately five men on the SHU exercise yard at New Folsom. Compare this to the rest of the country’s state and federal prison system during the same five year period, where a total of only seven prisoners were murdered by prison guards in all other states combined!

Are the crimes of murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon – e.g., an assault rifle – justified simply because the victims of these crimes are alleged criminals or gang members? You, as taxpayers have also been the victim of a state-sponsored crime. The CDCR politically hijacked and extorted over $200 million from your hard-earned tax dollars to build the high-tech torture chamber. This prison was not even necessary. Keep in mind that it was the CDCR that escalated the violence.

Pelican Bay State Prison is rooted in deception, exploitation, extortion, violence and murder. It is a symbol of crimes against humanity!

Two-hundred and fifty million dollars could have been used to enhance the quality of learning in the so-called inner cities, provided funding for crime prevention and criminal rehabilitation programs, drug rehab, day care, prenatal care, job training and job placement, and INCREASE teachers wages. We can go on and on. These things alone could have a very positive and productive impact on crime and society at large!

As an attempt to end hostilities and abolish the Security Housing Units, as we know them, the malignancy – the Pelikkkan Bay Factor – has re-emerged with the intent to impede our progress towards justice and humanity. So it is imperative that we resist any temptation to capitulate our moral integrity and fortitude within our endeavors to obtain our Five Core Demands and end all racial and group hostilities.

Pelican Bay State Prison is rooted in deception, exploitation, extortion, violence and murder.

The factors that served as a prelude to Pelikkkan Bay State Prison are the same factors being employed by the CDCR to justify its continued existence. Though I provided only a brief illustration of the CDCR manipulation and micromanaging of both racial and group hostilities, I believe it is enough to assist us in navigating through the tricks and traps of the CDCR.

We must remain vigilant in pursuit of our righteous cause and ignore the rumors of war being cultivated and propagated by the pigs. Their desperation is a clear sign of how close we are to victory!

Send our brothers some love and light:

  • Abdul Olugbala Shakur, s/n J. Harvey, C-48884, D-1-119, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Mutope Duguma, s/n J. Crawford, D-05996, D-1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Sitawa Nantambu Jamaa, s/n R. Dewberry, C-35671, D-1-117, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532
  • Abasi Banda, s/n C. Jackson, C-33559, D-2-107, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City CA 95532

SPLC reaches agreement to address prisoner abuse, neglect at Orleans Parish Prison

From: Southern Poverty Law Center
Dec. 11th 2012

The SPLC has reached an agreement with officials in Orleans Parish, La., to address the brutal and inhumane conditions at the Orleans Parish Prison, where prisoners have endured rampant violence, sexual assaults and neglect.

The federal consent decree outlines steps that Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman will take to ensure prisoner safety and adequate staffing of the facility. If approved by the court, an independent monitor will oversee the agreement to ensure compliance. The agreement, the result of an SPLC lawsuit filed in April, also would apply to any new facility that is built to replace the jail.

“We are hopeful the judge will agree that this settlement is in the best interest of all parties involved,” said Katie Schwartzmann, managing attorney for the SPLC’s New Orleans office and lead attorney on the case. “We also applaud Sheriff Gusman and his office for taking the important first step of acknowledging the problems within the jail. While implementation will be difficult, we are committed to improving conditions, and will work with him to do so. We also need the city to work with us and provide the funding to truly fix this jail.”

SPLC clients Byron Morgan and Nicholas Miorana, both prisoners in the Orleans Parish Prison, said they were pleased an agreement has been reached. “I am excited the sheriff has agreed to take a hard look, and fix this jail,” Morgan said. “I hope Mayor Mitch Landrieu will help make the changes as well.”

Miorana added, “Today, I understand what right and wrong stand for. With help from the Justice Department and SPLC, our cries will finally be heard.”
The decree includes the following provisions:

  • Review and monitoring of prison operations by a professional corrections administrator.
  • Comprehensive policies governing the use of force and restraints on prisoners.
  • Documenting and tracking complaints of prison staff using excessive force.
  • A staffing plan that provides enough officers to ensure prisoner safety.
  • A ban on placing teenagers in units where they may have contact with an adult prisoner.
  • Guidelines for providing medical and mental health care for prisoners.

The SPLC lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, described a facility where widespread violence and contraband – including knives – are the norm. It also noted that the jail is understaffed and that deputies are not only poorly trained and supervised, but are often complicit in the abuses suffered by the prisoners.

The U.S. Department of Justice intervened in the case in September, joining the effort to address the conditions. Three years ago, a comprehensive investigation by the department documented many of the same violations contained in the SPLC lawsuit.

Once the agreement is approved by the court, it will go into effect immediately. However, certain provisions cannot be implemented until the city and the sheriff’s office resolve how to provide adequate funding for the jail. If the city and the sheriff cannot resolve the funding dispute, the funding issue will go to trial on April 4, 2013, before U.S. District Judge Lance Africk.

“April 4 is a long time for the men, women and children in Orleans Parish Prison to wait,” said Schwartzmann. “With Sheriff Gusman committed to reform, we urge Mayor Landrieu to provide immediate emergency funding to support the necessary changes. Every day we wait, the lives of thousands of New Orleanians remain at risk.”

1 staffer killed, another wounded in Colo. prison [Crowley]

From: http://www.wflx.com/story/19622431/2-staffers-injured-in-sw-colo-prison-disturbance, Sept 24-25th 2012

CROWLEY, Colo. (AP) – A female kitchen employee was killed and another was seriously injured Monday in an assault involving an inmate while breakfast was being prepared at a state prison in southeast Colorado, a spokeswoman said.

The inmate was subdued, and the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Crowley was put on lockdown, said Alison Morgan, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections. The prison 45 miles east of Pueblo houses about 1,000 male prisoners.

Sgt. Lori Gann was listed in critical condition Monday at a hospital in Pueblo, Morgan said. She has worked for the Department of Corrections since March 2009.

The names of the other victim and the inmate weren’t immediately released.

Read the rest here: http://www.wflx.com/story/19622431/2-staffers-injured-in-sw-colo-prison-disturbance

See also: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/article/275251/6/Prison-staff-member-killed-in-Colo-prison

Alabama Overcrowding: Committee looks at prison violence

Today, June 20th 2012:

From: WSFA

MONTGOMERY, AL (AP) –
A joint legislative oversight committee on prisons is planning to meet to discuss reports of increased violence in Alabama prisons and allegations of sexual abuse at one prison.

A committee has scheduled a meeting for 1 p.m. Wednesday in the Joint Briefing Room at the Alabama Statehouse to discuss reports of rising inmate-on-inmate violence in prisons. The Legislature’s Joint Prison Oversight Committee will also discuss allegations of prison employees sexually abusing women inmates at Tutwiler Prison in Wetumpka.

Read the rest here: http://www.wsfa.com/story/18834048/committee-looks-at-prison-violence

—————-
Here is the article by the Equal Justice Initiative about the Prison Overcrowding in Alabama, which is becoming increasingly serious:

ALABAMA’S OVERCROWDED PRISONS BECOMING MORE VIOLENT
June 5, 2012
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Alabama’s prisons house twice as many people as they were designed to hold and the ratio of inmates to correctional officers is the worst of any state in the country. As a result, there is an alarming increase in violent incidents in the state’s overcrowded prisons.

As The Birmingham News recently reported, violence among prisoners was up 40% in 2010-2011 compared to the previous year; assaults leading to serious injury doubled. Three inmates have been killed in Alabama prisons since October 2011.

Actually, the rate of violent assaults in Alabama prisons is likely worse than the official data show. Lawsuits challenging the overcrowding, short staffing, and pervasive violence in Alabama prisons have uncovered evidence that the state underreports attacks on inmates.

For example, the Department of Corrections’ public reports for 2008-2009 listed only one assault with serious injury at Donaldson Correctional Facility, but internal records showed at least 16 Donaldson inmates were taken to outside hospitals during that time for treatment of serious injuries, including collapsed lungs, vomiting and urinating blood, and loss of sight in one eye.

Crowding and staffing shortages are likely to worsen in the coming year, for which the corrections budget has been cut by $16 million.

Corrections officials’ failure to protect inmates from assaultive staff and fellow inmates contributes to the rise in violence. “They’re letting people fight,” said EJI director Bryan Stevenson. “They’re not responding in any meaningful way.”

Stevenson said society at large has a stake in ensuring that inmates are protected from violence in prison. “Most people are going to be released,” he said. “Torturing, abusing and assaulting people over many years and then releasing them to the public is not a sensible public safety strategy.”

Links:

Birmingham News: Alabama Prison Violence Rising in Overcrowded System, 6/3/12

Associated Press: Report: Violence Increasing in Crowded Alabama Prisons as Budget
Cuts Loom
, 6/3/12

Birmingham News: Alabama’s Bullock Mental Health Facility the Most Violent Prison in State, 6/3/12

Anniston Star Editorial: Pause About Prisons: Allegations of Abuse, Increased Violence Real Concerns in Alabama, 6/5/12

Birmingham News: Alabama prisons: Reports of Rising Violence, Sexual Assaults to get Legislative Hearing, 6/5/12

Huntsville Times Editorial: Alabama’s Mean Prisons, 6/8/12

Eufaula Tribune: Clayton Prison Ranks Seventh for Inmate Violence, 6/9/12

Birmingham News Editorial: Alabama and its Lawmakers Need to Seriously Address Growing Problems of Violence Behind Bars, 6/10/12

Gadsden Times Editorial: No Easy Answers on Prisons, 6/10/12

Huntsville Times: Alabama Prison Chief Faces Budget Cuts, Challenges Over Tutwiler Abuse Reports, 6/13/12

ManCI on emergency lockdown due to violence (May 30th)

We received this via email on May 30th. We were given permission to post it here.

I just got word from a family member whom I email daily at MANCI that it is on emergency lock down for days as there is an uprising in 3B block. There has been multiple stabbings with one reportedly not going to make it as it involved the chest.

That SRT (?) was called in and taking command and they are doing emergency ride outs to Lucasville. The director was called in. This is all due to the new tiered system being implemented.

This is not in the local news as I have searched throughout the day….why is this not being reported.

The new system I feel is a joke they need common sense when they consider segregating to curb violence! By this I mean put all pedophiles together as they are a target by other inmated as they are repulsed. Then consider dividing by the amount of time and known affilations..if they want to curb violence within the system divide them in ways the inmated have divided themselves. In society we do this as we socialize with our friends and live in neighborhoods which are essentially divided on income!

This dividing based on problems in the facility is dumb as they are considering factors such as what is causing the inmates to be violent such as stealing from others, being put in cells with pedophiles whom violence is geared toward, gangs, ect. Where is Director Mohr’s common sense?
Thank-you
M.

Report: Ohio should move mentally ill young adults out of juvenile detention centers quickly

From: The Republic
Jan 6th 2012, by Andrew Welsh-Huggins

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state should transfer mentally ill juvenile inmates to psychiatric facilities as soon as possible and find money for their treatment, according to a new report on the status of Ohio’s youth prison system.

The Department of Youth Services holds some of the most acutely mentally ill youth in the state, who would be transferred to more appropriate psychiatric treatment facilities if they were hospitalized or in other settings outside detention, the report said.

The report filed in federal court Thursday also said repeatedly placing mentally ill youth in seclusion affects decisions about whether they should be held beyond the end of their sentences.

Under a court settlement, Youth Services must “strive to prevent deterioration or exacerbation of mental health symptoms and needless isolation for behaviors caused by mental health issues,” according to the report by court-appointed monitors Will Harrell and Terry Schuster.

Youth Services and a state interagency committee on mental health and juvenile justice are looking at long-term fixes. Thursday’s report raised the point of more immediate action.

The state said it “provides comprehensive behavioral health services” to youth including two mental health units for boys and one for girls, each staffed with full-time psychologists and social workers, according to DYS spokeswoman Andrea Kruse.

Ohio has procedures to move mentally ill offenders to psychiatric hospitals, Kruse said, but added: “because of the violent behavior that many of the youth present, it is often difficult to find placement.”

The report is the third annual summary reviewing Youth Services’ efforts to make prisons safer following a 2004 lawsuit that alleged a culture of violence.

Much has changed since that lawsuit, as the state has closed several detention facilities and the population has sunk to about 600 inmates, almost all boys. But violence continues in the system.

Most juvenile offenders in Ohio are now held in county-run facilities around the state in an attempt to keep them closer to family and away from a prison-like atmosphere that could increase the chances of them committing more crimes.

Read the rest here.