An immediate independent investigation into the violence and excessive force used by guards in this incident.
Suspension of guards involved pending investigation.
Comprehensive medical treatment for injuries sustained during the incident.
No retaliation for speaking out against this abuse.
This was published on The Atlantic website, written by Andrew Cohen for The Atlantic on Jan. 10th, 2014:
A judge’s order in an inmate abuse case highlights the role played, or not played, by the state’s political and legal infrastructure.
In two months, America will observe the 50th anniversary of one of its most dubious moments. On March 13, 1964, Catherine “Kitty” Genovese was brutally murdered in Queens, New York. What made her case infamous—legendary, even—was that nobody responded to her cries for help. “Please help me, please help me!” she cried, over and over, and at least 38 people in her neighborhood who heard those cries did nothing to help her. They did not call the police. They did not come to comfort her. They did not, they later said, want to get involved. “When good people do nothing” is a timeless moral question, indeed.
One could say the same thing about the citizens of the state of South Carolina, who stand condemned today by one of their own. On Wednesday, in one of the most wrenching opinions you will ever read, a state judge in Columbia ruled that South Carolina prison officials were culpable of pervasive, systemic, unremitting violations of the state’s constitution by abusing and neglecting mentally ill inmates. The judge, Michael Baxley, a decorated former legislator, called it the “most troubling” case he ever had seen and I cannot disagree. Read the ruling. It’s heartbreaking.
America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Dishonorable Mentions
7 runners-up, from a “gladiator school” to America’s largest death row.
By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella
Wed May. 15, 2013, in: Mother Jones Magazine
#1: ADX (federal supermax)
#2: Allan B. Polunsky Unit (Texas)
#3: Tent City Jail (Phoenix)
#4: Orleans Parish (Louisiana)
#5: LA County Jail (Los Angeles)
#6: Pelican Bay (California)
#7: Julia Tutwiler (Alabama)
#8: Reeves Country Detention Complex (Texas)
#9: Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (Mississippi)
#10: Rikers Island (New York City)
Read the complete introduction to our 10 Worst Prisons project.
Last of 11 parts.
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. These dishonorable mentions make up the final installment of our 11-part series, a subjective ranking based on three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with reform advocates concerning the penal facilities with the grimmest claims to infamy.
Attica Correctional Facility (Attica, New York): More than four decades after its famous uprising, New York’s worst state prison still lives up to its brutal history. According to the Correctional Association of New York, which has a legislative mandate to track prison conditions, Attica is plagued by staff-on-prisoner violence, intimidation, and sexual abuse.
Communications Management Units (Marion, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana): These two federal prisons-within-prisons, whose populations are more than two-thirds Muslim, were opened secretly by the Bureau of Prisons during the Bush administration, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is challenging the facilities in a federal lawsuit. “The Bureau claims that CMUs are designed to hold dangerous terrorists and other high-risk inmates, requiring heightened monitoring of their external and internal communications,” notes a lawsuit fact sheet. “Many prisoners, however, are sent to these isolation units for their constitutionally protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or in retaliation for challenging poor treatment or other rights violations in the federal prison system.” (Also see: Pelican Bay.)
Ely State Prison (Ely, Nevada): A “shocking and callous disregard for human life” is how an auditor described medical care at Ely, which houses the state’s death row along with other maximum security prisoners (PDF). The audit, which found that one prisoner was allowed to rot to death from gangrene, formed the basis of a 2008 class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU’s National Prison Project. The suit was settled in 2010, but by 2012 the prison still was not in full compliance.
Idaho Correctional Center (Kuna, Idaho): Run by Corrections Corporation of America, the world’s largest private prison company, ICC has been dubbed a “gladiator school” for its epidemic of gang violence. According to a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the ACLU of Idaho (PDF), the violence is not only condoned but actively promoted by the staff. The suit was settled, but last November, the ACLU said CCA appeared to be violating the agreement, which called for increased staffing and training, reporting of assaults to the local sheriff’s office, and disciplinary measures for staffers who didn’t take steps to stop or prevent assaults.
San Quentin State Prison (Marin County, California): This decrepit prison, which sits on a $2 billion piece of bayside real estate, is home to America’s largest death row. As of late-April, there were 711 men and 20 women condemned to die at San Quentin—you can find the latest stats here (PDF); the figure is constantly changing, despite a state moratorium on executions, because prisoners frequently die of illness or old age. Some even commit suicide rather than remain in solitary limbo.
Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola, Louisiana): At America’s largest prison, those who embrace warden Burl Cain’s pet program of “moral rehabilitation” through Christianity are afforded privileges while sinners languish in institutional hell. A former slave plantation, the prison lends its name to the so-called Angola 3, two of whom have been held in solitary for 40 years, largely for their perceived political beliefs. (In March, Louisiana’s attorney general declared, bafflingly, that the men had “never been in solitary confinement.”)
The federal pen at Lewisburg.
United States Penitentiary (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania): In this overcrowded supermax, the target of multiple lawsuits, prisoners are locked down for 23 to 24 hours a day in the company of a cellmate. One lawsuit alleges that prison officials deliberately pair people with their enemies, and that this practice has led to at least two deaths. The suit also claims that prisoners have been strapped to their bunks with four-point restraints if they resist their cell assignments.
Research for this project was supported by a grant from the Investigative Fund and The Nation Institute, as well as a Soros Justice Media Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations. Additional reporting by Beth Broyles, Valeria Monfrini, Katie Rose Quandt, and Sal Rodriguez.
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.
This article was found on Global Research
June 21, 2011
By Li Onesto
Crescent City is far north in California, about 20 miles from the Oregon border. In 1989, 275 acres of dense forest near there were chopped down to build the $277.5 million Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP). Today, more than 3,000 people are locked up in this prison, infamous for its inhumane conditions and extreme abuse.
More than 1,000 prisoners at PBSP are locked up in an X-shaped cluster of white buildings set apart by electrified fences and barren ground. This is the Security Housing Unit (SHU), a supermax control facility where prisoners are subjected to sensory deprivation, isolation and brutality.
Many prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU, and their lawyers, have bravely fought to expose the torture that is going on. They have written letters and articles, and filed lawsuits. Against heavy repression and censorship they have struggled to connect with people on the outside who are fighting for the rights of prisoners.
Dehumanizing Sensory Deprivation and Isolation
Solitary confinement is a hidden world within the larger hidden world of the prison system, and prisoners in solitary are an invisible and dehumanized minority within the larger population of prison inmates in general—who also remain remarkably invisible and dehumanized…
— Solitary Watch, an information clearinghouse on solitary confinement
If you are in the SHU at Pelican Bay Prison you face two extremes: minimum human contact and maximum sensory deprivation.
Think about everything that makes you human, that keeps you physically and mentally alive, that connects you with the world and other people, that gives you a reason to live, to love, to learn and think. All this is what the SHU tries to extinguish.
If you get put in the SHU you’re locked up in a small, windowless concrete cell for 23 hours a day, without any face-to-face contact with another human being, not even a guard. You may or may not be allowed reading material. You get only one hour outside the cell, by yourself, in a small indoor space. You never see sunlight or a blade of grass. Whenever you leave your cell you’re handcuffed and shackled, hands-to-waist, ankle-to-ankle.
Many mentally ill prisoners are put in the SHU at Pelican Bay. And the SHU literally drives many prisoners crazy. What does this mean? There is evidence that long-term isolation can alter brain chemistry and produce psychopathologies, including panic attacks, depression, inability to concentrate, memory loss, aggression, self-mutilation, and various forms of psychosis. These things occur as a result of other forms of confinement. But they happen at a considerably higher rate to prisoners subjected to long-term isolation. And there are prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU who have been suffering this form of torture for 20, 30 or even 40 years.1
These crimes against prisoners also carry over to their families. Prison officials purposely prevent prisoners in the SHU from having physical contact with their loved ones. A prisoner in the PBSP SHU isn’t even allowed to take a photo of himself to send to his family. No phone calls are permitted.
If you live in San Francisco and have a son, a husband, or a father at Pelican Bay, you have to drive 370 miles to see them. If you live in Los Angeles the drive is 750 miles. And when you get there, you’re only allowed to visit for one and a half hours through thick glass, no touching.
Brutality Aimed at Breaking Bones and Spirit
The prison population in the U.S. has skyrocketed—from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 2.3 million today. In California 33 new prisons were built between 1984 and 2005 (12 prisons had been constructed in the state in the previous 132 years). Human rights groups in the U.S. and internationally have documented the inhumane conditions of this mass incarceration. And recently the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that conditions in California prisons constitute “cruel and unusual punishment.” 2
Indeed if you look at the brutal conditions in U.S. prisons, which have been clearly documented, it becomes clear that the prison system in this country is not about helping prisoners or even treating them like human beings. And for decades now, there hasn’t even been the pretense of prisons being about “rehabilitation.”
Mass incarceration in this country is about locking up a whole section of society—especially poor Black and Latino men—to whom this system offers no future. Prisons in the U.S. are aimed at punishment—degrading, dehumanizing, and breaking people. And the SHU at Pelican Bay is a model in doing exactly that.
For example, guards carry out brutal “cell extractions”—which they say are done if a prisoner won’t leave his cell. But prisoners in the SHU have said that cell extractions are carried out for such minor infractions as refusing to return a meal tray, banging on the cell door, or insulting a guard. This description of a cell extraction is corroborated not only by many prisoner accounts, but also by explicit Department of Corrections procedures:
“This is how the five-man cell extraction team proceeds: the first member of the team is to enter the cell carrying a large shield, which is used to push the prisoner back into a corner of the cell; the second member follows closely, wielding a special cell extraction baton, which is used to strike the inmate on the upper part of his body so that he will raise his arms in self-protection; thus unsteadied, the inmate is pulled off balance by another member of the team whose job is to place leg irons around his ankles; once downed, a fourth member of the team places him in handcuffs; the fifth member stands ready to fire a taser gun or rifle that shoots wooden or rubber bullets at the resistant inmate.”3
After such a beating, a prisoner may be kept hog-tied in his cell for hours.
A former guard at Pelican Bay testified about how he was targeted by other guards because he didn’t go along with all the vicious brutality he was supposed to carry out. He said: “They called D-Yard SHU, ‘fluffy SHU,’ because we didn’t hog-tie inmates to toilets or kick them in the face after cell extractions… There was one officer in there who used to take photos of every shooting and decorate his office with them.” 4
Doesn’t this sound a lot like the soldiers in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan who carried out massacres and then proudly collected body parts like souvenirs and posed for photos they could use to brag about their exploits?
The “Catch-22” of the SHU
How does a prisoner end up in the SHU? For exhibiting any violence. For anything prison officials deem “insubordination.” For contraband—which includes not only drugs but cell phones—or even having too many postage stamps. 5
Prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU have submitted a Formal Complaint—
“On Human Rights Violations and Request for Action to end over 20 years of state sanctioned torture to extract information from (or cause mental illness to) California’s Pelican Bay State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU) Prisoners”—to the State of California lawmakers and the Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. One of the issues addressed in this complaint is the way many prisoners end up in the SHU at Pelican Bay because false and/or highly questionable “evidence” is used to accuse them of being active/inactive members of a prison gang. Prison officials say supermax facilities like the SHU are for the “worst of the worst.” But as the Formal Complaint says, “a review of these so-called demonized ‘worst of the worst’ PBSP-SHU inmates, who are party to this complaint, will reveal they are actually free of being guilty of serious rule violations for many years and zero illegal gang-related acts in prison.” And the complaint also alleges that many of those sent to the SHU are “those who utilize the legal system to challenge illegal [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] policies and practices, and encourage others to do the same.”
The Formal Complaint states:
“If they want out of the SHU, they have to provide staff with information and be willing to testify on other prisoners, free citizens, including family members that only harms others and this has to be known by everyone. This is a Catch 22 situation—become a notorious informant (and thereby place yourself, possibly your family, at serious risk for retaliation) or die or become mentally ill in the SHU.”
This is called “debriefing,” which, the complaint goes on to explain, “requires a SHU inmate to provide CDCR staff with ‘sufficient verifiable information that will adversely impact the gang, other gang members and associates to the extent that they will never accept them back.’”
The complaint goes on to say:
“This makes the inmate (and possibly his family members) a target for reprisal, potentially for life … many of these inmates are serving “term-to-life” sentences, and they have been eligible for parole for the last 5 to 25+ years, but they are told that if they want a chance to parole they have to debrief—period! The CDCR-PBSP-SHU policies and practices summarized violate both the U.S. Constitution and International law banning the use of torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment as a means of obtaining information via coercion, and/or to punish for acts or suspected acts of misconduct…”
Crimes Against Humanity
Earlier this year, Laura Magnani, author of the American Friends Service Committee 2008 report, “Buried Alive: Long-Term Isolation in California’s Youth and Adult Prisons,” was on KPFK radio’s Michael Slate Show and talked about conditions in SHUs (see interview excerpt above, “It is so dehumanizing, it’s almost unimaginable”). At the end of the interview Slate spoke to the importance of prisoners “transforming themselves and really becoming something different from what they may have been when they went in, even if they weren’t political prisoners there.” He brought up how the isolation works to rob them of the ability to do this, of dreaming, of taking part in revolutionary activity. Magnani responded:
“It’s not even just dreams, it’s actually punishing you for having an intellectual life, for actually thinking outside the box, or for thinking at all. So the idea of barring people’s access to certain kinds of thought, which is what censorship is, is extremely frightening. And we know from research that one of the best things that can happen to somebody doing a long prison sentence is for them to develop an intellectual life and start reading and start studying and start thinking for themselves. That’s a way where you can really create a new life for yourself, or you can make your life meaningful even if you never get out. But if you do get out, you make yourself a more productive member of society, because you have a life. You’re a thoughtful, educated person. What could be better? And instead they’re trying to really prevent that from happening.”
Crimes against the very humanity of people are being carried out every single day at Pelican Bay Prison—and in other prisons all over the USA. This is an intolerable outrage. And a mass and determined movement outside the walls is urgently needed to expose and demand an end to these high-tech torture chambers.
1 “Confronting Torture in U.S. Prisons: A Q&A With Solitary Watch” by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella, June 17, 2011 [back]
2 “Cruel and Unusual Punishment in California Prisons,” Revolution #235, June 12, 2011 [back]
3 “‘Infamous Punishment’: The Psychological Consequences of Isolation” by Craig Haney, National Prison Project Journal, Spring 1994 [back]
4 “Rural Prison as Colonial Master” by Christian Parenti, available at: pelicanbayprisonproject.org/history.htm [back]
5 Ridgeway and Casella [back]
To be able to meet and cross paths with true comrades under these circumstances is one of the best things going for a young soldier like me. To have to live under such disturbing conditions while surrounded by so many prisoners who unfortunately obtain counter-productive mentalities is a tragedy within itself. Especially as we are all going through this same struggle together. So to be fortunate enough to come across comrades like Coyote to pass me literature and encourage me to pick up the struggle. And comrades like Brother Reggie who inspires me to be mentally and physically strong while living in the hellhole, a young soldier like me would probably still be promoting a selfish destructive lifestyle. And I wouldn’t be here today to write this article to shed light on yet another case of police brutality and abuse of power by the guards and the administration of Ely State Prison.
We’ve all heard about the incident of police brutality that took place in unit 4 on January 31st, 2010, where a guard allegedly got stabbed after beating over a dozen inmates bloody while in handcuffs, which resulted in a lieutenant and another officer getting fired, and which has provoked a series of lawsuits – on top of hundreds and hundreds of lawsuits that are already ongoing against the cold-hearted administration of E.S.P. So another report of police brutality should be no surprise.
In fact, I’m sure it was because of the lawsuits in regards to the “Bloody Sunday” incident (which is what the January 31st fracas is now being referred to as) that has caused the I.G.’s office to intervene on this latest incident of brutality that I am now about to report. Here for the very first time. Unfortunately the I.G.’s office intervention was a little too late, so hopefully this article will raise awareness and inspire people to start taking action so that we can prevent this type of retaliation from happening again, Let me explain…
I was working in the kitchen on March 7th, 2011. An inmate named Newcastle, known to us as “Chilly”, was alleged to brutally beat the Culinary Manager Steve Roundy almost to death. No one really knows if “Chilly” was the one to beat Steve over the head or not. For all we know it could’ve been a guard, cuz this incident allegedly took place after Steve threatened to write an officer up. But what we do know for sure is that Chilly is the one who was targeted by the officers after the alleged incident took place. The pigs came into the kitchen and handcuffed every prisoner and made us all lay face down on a dirty ground and then the officers proceeded to beat inmate Newcastle for about 20 to 30 minutes before they took him out of the kitchen. Chilly was in handcuffs and fully restrained. The pigs were supposed to have the video camera trained on the inmate, but they would point the camera on Steve, the Culinary Manager, while beating on Chilly. He was screaming and in obvious pain from the brutality of these vindictive, cowardly pigs. Then they took Chilly out of the kitchen into the hallway where I believe they beat him some more, which I will explain here momentarily.
Eventually Chilly was taken to the infirmary where the I.G. (Inspector General)’s offices that a camera be placed on him for 24 hours, 7 days a week to keep him protected from he violent retaliation of these cowardly officers. Why would the I.G.’s office take such drastic measures? Because they obviously know the nature and the criminal ways of these so-called E.S.P. “Correctional Officers.”
All of the other eleven prisoners, including myself, were taken to the hallway and forced to strip naked where a female nurse stood in front of me examining my body for any cuts and bruises. I felt very uncomfortable as the female nurse was staring at me laughing while the guards were standing by making sexual comments about my genitalia. and besides, there are male nurses employed here at E.S.P., so what was the purpose of having a female nurse inspect my naked body other than to humiliate and degrade me? This is all part of the psychological warfare waged on prisoners daily here at E.S.P. So needless to say, I felt violated, especially after it was already said that “The other 11 inmates did nothing wrong.” But that’s nothing compared to the violation I felt as I watched helplessly while Chilly was being beaten with a vengeance by these pigs.
After the inspection, or “degradation” I should say, we were all dressed and placed on our knees with our hands on our heads. And we were repeatedly threatened by the officer in the hallway gun tower that if we moved we will be shot down. After 30 minutes of this we were then all sent back to unit 8.
What´s even more crazy about all of this, is that when we were in the kitchen, lying on the floor in handcuffs, I was positioned in a way so that I was facing the pigs so that I could see then beat Chilly. And I could see everything that was going on, then one of the pigs tells another pig to make me turn my body the other way so I wouldn´t see what was going on. Twenty minutes after we were returned to our unit 2 pigs come to my room and told me that I needed to come with them. And I was then told that I had to speak with an Investigator from Las Vegas, and while I was in the process of being escorted to the property room, I saw some “bloody gloves” in the hallway just laying there. So it makes you wonder…
Upon entering the property room I was told I would be speaking with an Investigator and that I need to let them know everything I know and have seen. After 2 hours of sitting in the property holding cell, Lieutenant Peck comes in and gave me a pink piece of paper and read me my Miranda Rights. The paper was an Administrative Segregation Notice of Classification Hearing paper that I had to sign.
Then I was taken to the infirmary, but on the way to the Infirmary I asked the pig why I´m being treated like a suspect in the case, because to my understanding any time you are apprehended or detained by authority and read your Rights concerning a crime, you are observed as a potential suspect in the crime, and that´s clearly what´s going on here.
The pig´s response to my question was: “You shouldn´t have been facing that way, told you.” So to my understanding they know I was laying on the ground watching inmate Newcastle get beat. So then I was taken to the Infirmary and placed in holding cell #11 for 6 to 8 hours. Then Sergeant Lightsey and 2 C.E.R.T. officers came to my door and handcuffed me and when I came out the cell there was a video camera on a post facing me and the cell that I was in. I didn´t even know it was there until I came out the cell. So then I was brought to “the hole.” In unit 1A, stripped out of my clothes and given an orange jumpsuit. I asked Sgt Lightsey “Why am I being treated like a suspect?” He responded “You are a suspect.” The next day, ;March 8th, 2011, I was then taken to custody and was put in a small office where a sheriff from White Pine County and an investigator from Las Vegas asked me questions about the situation that occurred in the kitchen on March 7th, 2011. They asked me did I see the inmate Newcastle go in there, I said: “No, I was doing my job sacking up the lunches.” Then I was asked did I hear him say anything? I said: “No. I was just doing my job.” I asked them why I was being treated like a suspect. I was then told I am a possible suspect and witness, so I told them I did nothing wrong and I didn´t see anything. I was taken back to unit 1 and placed back into the cell with bloody ankles from the shackles being placed around my legs so tight I requested for medical attention, and I did not receive medical attention: my cell emergency button did not even work.
I am here on Ad. Seg. Told that I will remain under investigation for the 3-7-2011 situation. Of course, even though I´m only 22 years old, I´m still wise to their ways, I understand that all of thi sis just an intimidation tactic. To keep me from exposing how they savagely beat Chilly down while he was fully restrained like the cowards they are. It took me 3 weeks before I could get my property or even before I could take a shower. My rights to make a legal call were denied. And for a week we were being starved out with 2 cold, 300 calorie meals a day. And one hot meal at dinner. All of this to try to break my spirits. To try to make me cave in, left to set in a cell to worry and agonize over whether these cold-hearted cowards were gonna try to set me up as a retaliatory act because they know I watched them beat Newcastle.
After a week of being starved out, an anarchist comrade and an anti-authoritarian comrade on 1B kicked off a disturbance where supposedly fires were started, slots were captured and the tier was flooded out as more and more prisoners started to join in the resistance. From my wing – A-wing – we could see prisoners get carried out on stretchers and smoke everywhere. So we were quick to show our solidarity on A-wing! Supposedly Unit 1 was flooded and burnt out on the day of March 14th 2011. The next day we got fed our normal 2 hot meals a day and a cold sack lunch! So it just goes to show what a little resistance can do!
People need to know about the depravity here at ESP. They´ve already heard about the “Bloody Sunday” incident+ And the mysterious death of Timothy Redman. They ´ve heard about the way they let Cavanaugh rot and die. They´ve heard about the medical neglect, the F.B.I. investigations. And all of the lawsuits. And now they’re gonna hear about this! What else is it gonna take before we can get these callous and uncaring administrators and wardens removed from this prison, where someone capable can come in and operate this in a reasonable and humane way?
I was at one time blind and ignorant enough to work in the kitchen and help uphold the operations of this foul ass prison. I’ve seen the brutality of these pigs. And I’ve seen prisoners almost die because these incompetent nurses have given them the wrong medication.
The kitchen is the most unsanitary place in this whole prison. The pots and pans they cook food in are only half cleaned, the sheet pars they cook cakes and pies in are dirty. The floors and walls are dirty. And to top that off you have mice and rats running around the kitchen bite through food they feed us! There’s holes in the walls and the pigs even put food in the holes for the mice and rats.
This prison needs to be shut down, or else tempers are going to continue to flare and things are gonna blow up around here. The pigs are very disrespectful: they call your name and talk shit to you and they even call you names and talk shit to you and they even call Black people “monkeys”. And they know they can get away with just about anything because most of them live in the same town and are friends, they all watch each other’s back. And these so-called wardens cover up for them and back up their wrongdoing to cover their own asses.
Back here in the hole it’s bad. Psychiatric patients going crazy and terrorizing everybody. If you’re on Disciplinary Segregation you can’t even get a book sent in from your people on the outs. Left to sit in between 4 walls and lose your mind. No food off canteen, so D.S. inmates are forced to eat this unsanitary food or starve to death! It’s all bad.
I was once blind to all of this madness here at Ely State Prison. But now after being through all of this, and running across good comrades like Coyote who have taken the time to pass me literature and extend his solidarity and discuss serious matters about oppression and about how we need to elevate ourselves under these conditions, nothing can be the same for me anymore, now I’m stepping up to the plate, to be involved in the struggle and to be a part of the solution, no more can I stand idly by while we all suffer under these same atrocities. And I’m calling on others to start getting organized, start becoming active in the struggle that we are all aware of for liberation and justice. Leave the old, destructive ways alone and get involved in something that truly matters! I’m only 22 years old, I step up to the plate, so I know you can, because we all know what goes on here at Ely State Prison day in and day out. I step up because I know that “God” got my back for what ever comes my way, I’m prepared.
In for better for myself and others,
“With the heart of a young warrior”,
Comrade Vick P.!
Received by mail:
April 10th 2011
Including 5 pages of documentation.
Posted: 07/18/2010 01:00:00 AM MDT
Marvin Booker just wanted to get his shoes.
But deputies at the new Denver jail told him to stop. When Booker, who was being processed on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia, didn’t obey, he was held down, hit with electric shocks and then placed facedown in a holding cell, according to two inmates who watched it unfold.
Booker never got up. He was pronounced dead later that morning.
“I’ve never seen anything happen like that before in my life,” said John Yedo, 54, who was being processed on a charge of destruction of property and said he witnessed the scene. “What I saw is not what you’d expect to see in America.”
The two jail witnesses, who were both arrested in the early-morning hours of July 9 around the time Booker was being processed, were contacted and interviewed by The Denver Post separately. Both of them said they had not been questioned by police investigating the death of Booker, a homeless ordained minister who served the poor, but also a habitual criminal with a long string of arrests.
Capt. Frank Gale, spokesman for the jail, said he cannot comment on the ongoing investigation by the Denver Police Department and the Denver district attorney’s office, and cannot confirm the inmates’ accounts.
He said what happened at the Van Cise-Simonet Detention Facility would have been recorded on videotape.
“If in fact what they are saying is true, it should be reflected in the video,” Gale said.
District attorney spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough said she couldn’t comment during the investigation, which could take several more weeks. The coroner’s office is awaiting test results before completing the autopsy report and determining how Booker died, she said. In the meantime, the deputies involved in Booker’s case are still on the job.
Yedo has had one prior arrest, in 1974 on a drug charge. Christopher Maten, 25, the other witness, was arrested in 2005 for public consumption of alcohol. Neither is a career criminal. The versions the two suspects tell are nearly identical.
“I can’t breathe . . .”
Both say that Booker, 56, was asleep in a chair in a holding area of the jail when his name was called and he was ordered to a processing desk.
Half-asleep about 3 a.m., Booker walked to the desk in his socks, forgetting to put on his shoes. The female deputy ordered Booker to sit in a chair in front of the desk.
Booker responded that he wished to stand. When the deputy threatened to have him placed in a holding cell if he didn’t sit, Booker told her he would go to the holding cell, said Maten, who had been arrested that morning for resisting arrest in a confrontation with a parking-meter attendant.
” ‘Let me get my shoes,’ ” Maten quoted Booker as saying as he walked toward the chairs to get his shoes.
The deputy yelled at him repeatedly to stop, got up and followed Booker. Booker turned and repeated that he was getting his shoes, Maten said.
The deputy grabbed Booker by the arm and put a lock on him, Yedo said. Booker, who was 5 feet 5 and weighed 175 pounds, pushed her away. At that point, four other deputies wrestled Booker to the concrete floor. They slid down two steps to the floor in the sitting area. Yedo said the deputies each grabbed a limb while he struggled.
” ‘Get the Taser. Get the Taser,’ ” Yedo quoted one of the deputies as saying.
Yedo said he was only about 3 feet away, and Maten said he was close enough that if he stood and took one step, he could reach out and touch one of the deputies.
None of the deputies involved in the restraint has been identified. One female deputy was treated at a hospital for an injury she suffered in the confrontation, Gale said.
A fifth deputy put Booker in a headlock just as the female deputy began shocking him with a Taser with encouragement from one of the deputies, who kept repeating, “Probe his —,” Maten said. He could hear the Taser crackle repeatedly.
Booker said, “‘I can’t breath . . .,” Yedo heard. Then, Booker went limp.
Booker’s wrists were handcuffed behind his back in an awkward position when the deputies picked him up, each holding an arm or a leg, and carried him stomach-down to a holding cell with an unbreakable glass door.
They set him down on his stomach, with much of his weight on one shoulder and his legs bent, Yedo said. They took the handcuffs off and without checking his pulse, the officers left him on the floor of the holding cell.
The deputies walked away high-fiving and laughing, Maten said. Several inmates were saying, ” ‘I can’t believe they’re doing this,’ ” Maten said.
Yedo said he stared at Booker, watching his chest, which wasn’t moving. One deputy had stayed next to the cell and was also staring at Booker.
“I told the guy, ‘Hey, that guy is not breathing,’ ” Yedo said.
The deputy turned and yelled at the sergeant.
” ‘Sergeant, come here. Sergeant, hurry,’ ” Yedo said he yelled.
Booker was the son of a prominent Tennessee pastor, Benjamin Booker. The habitual criminal was arrested in Denver mostly during the 1980s and 1990s for disorderly conduct, trespass, loitering, disturbing the peace, carrying a concealed weapon and threatening assault.
In 2007 and 2008, he was homeless in downtown Memphis, said friend Dennis Lynch of Memphis. Booker often volunteered to work in soup kitchens.
He wrote a book about Martin Luther King Jr., and he sold it on the streets of Memphis, usually to tourists who heard him recite King’s famous “I have a dream” speech. When he spoke, crowds of tourists gathered.
“If you closed your eyes, you would think you were in the presence of Martin Luther King,” said Memphis Pastor Andrews R. Smith. “People would cry. He was always smiling. His eyes would just shine like a chipmunk.”
Booker often accompanied him when he made rounds in downtown Memphis, handing out food to the homeless. They all called him “Martin” because of his speeches.
“Marvin is such a kindhearted person,” Smith said. His sweet demeanor makes the circumstances of his death seem suspicious, he said.
When Memphis police cracked down on panhandling, Booker returned to Denver, Lynch said. George Booker, Booker’s cousin, said that recently his cousin was volunteering to help the homeless at Denver churches and was trying to turn his life around.
Booker’s funeral was Friday at Cathedral of Faith Community Church, the Memphis chapel where his brother C.L. Booker is the pastor. More than 200 people attended the service, in which his father gave the eulogy, Smith said.