Guard charged with abusing 20 inmates at SCI Pittsburgh

From: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
By Paula Ward
Sept 27, 2011

A corrections officer at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh was arrested this morning on charges that he assaulted — both sexually and physically — more than 20 inmates at the prison.

Harry Nicoletti, 60, of Coraopolis, is charged with 92 counts of institutional sexual assault, official oppression, terroristic threats and simple assault.

The investigation has been ongoing for several months by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Office of Special Investigations and Intelligence and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office. More arrests are expected, according to the DA’s office.

The charges were filed based on testimony of inmates and prison staff before the county investigating grand jury.

On Thursday, a federal lawsuit was filed against eight corrections officers and the DOC, alleging a “common plan and conspiracy to sexually abuse, physically abuse and mentally abuse inmates who were homosexual,” along with those who were transgender or convicted of sex crimes.

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The horror show that is Ely State Prison

I am an inmate at Ely State Prison (ESP) and have been for the last 9 years. I wanted to write and inform you about some of the horror show that is Ely State Prison. You can´t imagine the utter and absolute horror show this prison really is on the inside.

Here is an example from about 6 to 8 weeks ago. Officers went to a lock down unit to get a hot pot from an inmate. He refused to give it to them (this was on a Saturday: no wardens). So they extracted him. When other inmates began to yell at the officers for their extraction method, the number of officers grew and they did 6 to 8 more unnecessary extractions that sent 4 or 5 inmates out of the prison to the hospital in town to get treatment for their injuries. The lieutenant (Minik or Minnick) from that shift was fired about a week or so later. The shift sergeant from that shift (Bryant) was also the squad sergeant in charge of the Redman extraction that resulted in his death.

People in here die on a fairly regular basis. About three months ago a guy in unit 5 was beaten so bad over the course of 3 days by his cellie that he needed to be life-flighted out of here.

I have lived in general population and held a job in here for the last 8 ½ years. As I´m sure you know unit 8 is the only open unit in the prison and it is where the “workers” live. At one time, about two months ago there were about 140 workers. The administration is now in the process of getting that number down to 94 and housing all of us on one wing of unit 8 and locking down the other half.

Now I´m not sure if you know how this prison was designed, but to really understand, I´ll quickly explain. There are 8 units here, 4 units are considered general population, they are on one side of the prison; units 5, 6, 7 and 8. They each have an A and a B wing with 48 cells, 24 downstairs and 24 right above upstairs. Each wing was designed to house 48 people. Long ago, they put a second bunk in the 3 thru 24 cells (cells 1 and 2 are medical singles) that brought the number of inmates to 72 a unit.

About 3 ½ years ago they put second bunks in cells 25 thru 48, now they cram 94 inmates into a unit. In the lock down units it makes it loud and the stale air is brutal as well as the heat. In unit 8 as in the other units there are only 4 showers, 2 telephones and tables for 48 people to sit. Plus on the wall in the unit along with “no smoking” it says “Maximum occupancy 90,” which was probably put there by the Fire Marshall, but I´m sure the zero will be painted over and made into a four. That´s how they do things inside here. To start this process of getting down to 94 workers they have changed the times we are allowed out of our cells… well they actually took time away from us. See the pages I enclosed.

Here is another example. Some time ago an inmate sued the prison (ESP), because it was not handicap-accessible. After he won and the prison got some grant money to fix some things, they took the non-handicap accessible urinal off the “main yard.” So now there is no urinal on the yard. The officers here now look the other way while people urinate in an outside drain by the trash compactor. They will not let people go into the gym or back into the unit and then back out again. So if you want to stay outside you basically have to break the law.

Here is another policy that was started because people here and also at High Desert (HDSP) started refusing to live with someone in a lock down situation that has no end, for the main reason that it becomes very dangerous. They force you to live with people, especially here at ESP, in a small cell where you never have any time to yourself. They don´t tell you if the other person has HIV, Hep C or mental problems. The number of cell fights they have here at Ely is unreal. And until both inmates come to the door and get handcuffed, the officers will not enter a cell. So you could be getting your head split open and all they will do is gas the cell with pepper spray. And when under normal conditions if one person or both are leaving the cell, both people have to get handcuffed first. Well, on a regular basis one person will wait until his cellie gets cuffed first, then attack, because they know the officers won´t come into the cell until he cuffs up also. It makes for a very dangerous situation.

So in response people were refusing to cell with another person in a lock down situation and would go to the hole. Well since so many people were doing this, they changed the rules so that now you get none of your appliances for the first 60 days in the hole, then you petition for 1 appliance, and then 1 more, in another 60 days. Yet they can take them if you break any rules. If they don´t like you, you´ll never have your appliances.

Like I´ve said, you can´t imagine the horror show ESP really is on the inside.

Received per mail on May 20th 2010

Prisoner assaulted by staff in Ely State Prison

1st of December 2009

I would like to open this letter with my utmost respects. I was told to write you & tell you about my story in hopes of a little help! Here´s the truthful story about an assault that two C.O.´s put on me.

My name is Jeremiah Van Clinton. On 11-16-09 I was told by two C.O.´s (H. & J.) in Unit 2B-25 at Ely State Prison Max. to cuff up & they were doing a cell search of my cell so I did cuff up in hand & leg cuffs. I was brought to a gated locked shower, while those C.O.´s conducted a search on my cell.

I was in the shower 10 to 15 minutes when the C.O.´s H. & J. finally came to get me to go back to my room. I asked the two C.O.´s what they took out of my room & C.O. Herring told me “Not to fucking worry about it!” I said: “Don´t bite my head off, I was just asking a question.” The C.O.´s got my shower open and C.O. Herring grabbed one of my arms & Jones the other. C.O. H. yanked me out of the showers, almost making me fall, since I was in hand & leg cuffs. He told me: “So you think you´re tough! I´ll fuck you up, you´re not shit!”
I said: “I´m not trying to be tough, I just asked a question that´s it.”

C.O. H. said: “Turn around or I´ll plant your face on the floor.” He said: “Walk faster” too. I turned my head and told´em: “I can´t walk no faster, in leg cuffs, stop yanking me so hard. I didn´t even get to turn my head back before C.O. H. stepped on my leg chain & shoved me to the ground; he got into my ear and said: “I´ll kill you, you ain´t shit!” J. had my feet and was saying: “Stop resisting, faggot.” I said I am not resisting, I didn´t do shit!”

C.O. H. then put me in a choke hold and was choking me until I couldn´t breathe. Then he got in my ear again & said: “Fuck you, you ain´t shit, why don´t you give me a real reason to fuck you up?”

He finally stopped choking me and I said: “You just choked me for no reason.” Then that is when I felt the first (k)nee to the back of my head causing my forehead to hit the guard rail real hard, making a bump right away, then the second (k)nee hit me causing my right eye to hit the floor, then the third nee hit me, causing my left eye to hit the rail so hard it almost knocked me out & it slipped my whole eye open so bad, I had to be rushed to the hospital for inside and outside stitches. There is a camera footage of my face & pictures. I now got a two inch scar, headache that never goes away & numbness, and my eyebrow twitches uncontrollably. I got witnesses who saw it and made affidavits, stating what they have seen.

They moved me out of my unit and would not let me talk to no one. I was not given nothing for the pain, even after I asked. Instead of the C.O.´s getting into trouble for clearly using unnecessary force and violating my 8th Amendment, they wrote me up, falsifying legal documents, keeping me from witnesses, and now they are moving me to a whole other prison & did not give me no pain meds.

They say I was resisting and trying to head-butt the C.O.´s, but that is not what the witnesses saw, even though they don´t count, ´cause they are criminals, and cops are always right.

If you could please help in some way I would be so very grateful for it. I don´t know anything about the law.

Thanks and Please,


Jeremiah Clinton
P.O. Box 607
Carson City, Nevada 89702