Break silence on brutal Florida prisons

This is from the Bradenton Herald, July 12, 2014:

State Rep. Matt Gaetz, chair of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, suggested this week that, “If there is a problem,” within the Department of Corrections and the prisons and detention centers that it runs, “let’s fix it.”

However, there’s no “if” about it — there is a problem, a huge one.
Inmates are dying in Florida’s prisons, victims of torture and brutality. No one has been charged in these suspicious deaths, much less stood trial, despite the fact that one fatality has caught the public’s attention — the appalling case of Darren Rainey, who was scalded to death in 2012.
The FBI is investigating a prison riot in Suwannee. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is also looking into an inmate’s mysterious death there. An inmate in a Panhandle facility died after being gassed repeatedly by corrections officers. And there are others.
Few state authorities, from Gov. Scott’s office to his inspector general to the head of Corrections, have leaped forth to avow that they will get to the bottom of whistleblowers’ and inmates’ credible allegations of institutional cruelty, tacitly tolerated by those in charge.
In fact, the silence has been so shocking that, thankfully, James McDonough, who headed Florida’s DOC under Gov. Jeb Bush, was compelled to go public, spurring long-overdue action:
• Tuesday, Mr. McDonough said in an e-mail: “I am revolted by what I am hearing, just as I am by what I am not hearing.” He added, “These cases did not end tragically last week; they ended in horrific and suspicious deaths some years ago. Where has the leadership been?”
Snoozing, apparently.
• Wednesday, the current chief of DOC, Mike Crews, finally roused, declared himself “outraged” — two years after Rainey’s death and two months after the Herald disclosed that he was strong-armed by prison guards into a shower stall and burned to death under searingly hot water.
• Thursday, a now-energized Mr. Crews suspended Jerry Cummings, the warden of the Florida City facility where Rainey died.
But none of this should be construed as leadership on Mr. Crews’ part. Backing and filling is more like it, unfortunately. Mr. Cummings is on paid administrative leave, but the two correctional officers who are said to have locked Rainey in the shower are still on the job.
Read the rest here, and also in the Huffington Post
lawsuit filed by four prison investigators claims Florida’s prison system is badly mismanaged and the results have been deadly.
The four filed a federal whistle-blower complaint on Monday alleging that state prisoners were beaten and tortured, that guards smuggled in drugs and other contraband in exchange for money and sexual favors, and that guards used gang enforcers to control the prison population. They claim those actions were either tacitly approved or covered up.
One of the most grisly examples of abuse mentioned in the suit, which was filed last week, is the death of 27-year-old inmate Randall Jordan-Aparo in September, 2010.
According to former inspector Aubrey] Land, Jordan-Aparo, serving an 18-month term for credit card fraud and drug charges, was placed in solitary confinement and gassed multiple times by guards after he had begged to be taken to the hospital for a worsening medical condition. Land, who said he stumbled on the death of Jordan-Aparo while investigating other “garden-variety” corruption and abuses at Franklin, said the prison’s medical staff, corrections officers and supervisors later conspired to fabricate reports and lie to law enforcement about the events leading to the inmate’s death.
Another case mentioned in the suit is that of 50-year-old mentally ill inmate, Darren Rainey.
In May, 2014, the suit says, Rainey was put inside a scalding hot shower at Dade Correctional as punishment for defecating on the floor of his cell.
Read more here. and act appropriately to stop these abuses and change the system!

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Cecily McMillan (OWS Activist) Released from Rikers Island: Uses Platform to Challenge Systemic Injustices Incarcerated Women Face Daily

This is from: SparrowMedia, July 2nd 2014

[NEW YORK, NY] Imprisoned Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily McMillan was released from Rikers Island on Wednesday morning, July 2nd, after serving 58 days. She spoke publicly at a 1pm press conference outside the jail’s outer gates on Hazen Street.

This was the first time she was able to speak publicly after testifying in her trial. Cecily’s controversial trial garnered international media attention. She was supported by elected officials, community leaders, and celebrities. While serving her term at Rikers Island she was visited by members of Russian rock group Pussy Riot, themselves unjustly imprisoned in 2012.

The Following is Cecily’s Statement as read to members of the press at 1pm EST:

“Fifty nine days ago, The City and State of New York labeled me a criminal. Millionaires and billionaire–who had a vested interest in silencing a peaceful protest about the growing inequalities in America–coerced the justice system, manipulated the evidence, and suddenly I became dangerous and distinguished from law-abiding citizens. On May 5th, the jury delivered its verdict, the judge deemed me undesirable, and officers drove me across that bridge and barred me within. On the outside, I had spent my time fighting for freedom and rights. On the inside, I discovered a world where words like freedom and rights don’t even exist in the first place. I walked in with one movement, and return to you a representative of another. That bridge right there, that divides the city from Rikers Island, divides two worlds – today I hope to bring them closer together. Crossing back over, I have a message to you from several concerned citizens currently serving time at the Rose M. Singer Center.

“Incarceration is meant to prevent crime. Its purpose is to penalize and then return us to the outside world ready to start anew. The world I saw at Rikers isn’t concerned with that. Many of the tactics employed are aimed at simple dehumanization. In the interests of returning the facility to its mission and restoring dignity to its inmates, we, the women of Rikers, have several demands that will make this system more functional. These were collectively drafted for me to read before you today.

“First of all, we demand that we be provided with adequate, safe, and timely healthcare at all times. That, of course, includes mental health care services and the ability to request female doctors if desired at all times for safety and comfort. We often have to wait for up to 12 hours a day for a simple clinic visit, and occasionally 12 hours a day for up to a full week before we see anyone.

“The women of Rikers feel a special sense of urgency for this demand because of a particular event that occurred recently. About a week ago, our friend Judith died as a result of inadequate medical care. Judith had been in RSMC for a while, but was transferred to our dorm 4 East A, where I was housed, only a few days before her death. She had recently been in the infirmary for a back problem, and had been prescribed methadone pills for the pain for quite a while. A few days before she died, they decided to change the medicine to liquid despite her dissent. They gave her a dosage of 190mg, which any doctor will tell you is a dangerous dosage, far higher than what anyone should be taking unless it is a serious emergency. Judith was not allowed to turn down the medicine or visit the clinic to get the dosage adjusted.

“After three days on that dosage, Judith could no longer remember who or where she was and had begun coughing up blood, accompanied with what we believe were chunks of her liver. We attempted unsuccessfully to get her medical treatment for the entire day, at one point being told that this was “not an emergency,” despite the fact that Judith was covered in blood. That night they finally removed her to the hospital, where she remained in critical condition before passing away a few days later. This was a clear case of medical malpractice, both with the ridiculously high dosage of methadone and the refusal of adequate treatment. Stories like this are far too common in Rikers Island, and we demand that no more of our sisters be lost to sickness and disease as a result of inadequate medical care.

“Our next demand is that Corrections Officers should be required to follow the protocol laid out for them at all times, and that at some point soon that protocol should be examined to make sure that all rules and procedures are in the best interests of the inmates. We also demand that we have a clear and direct means to file a grievance that will be taken seriously and examined fully, so that Officers can be properly disciplined and removed from the area quickly when they abuse or endanger us.

“Recently my friend Alejandra went to file a grievance about being denied access to medical treatment for a concussion until she awoke one morning unable to move. When she met with the captain after filing the grievance, she was presented with a different sheet and a different complaint than the one she had provided and was forced to sign it. Inmates should be able to trust that situations like that will not concern, and that our safety and dignity be respected by those designated to supervise us. There is a clear protocol for officers already laid out in the inmate handbook, but it is seldom followed. Officers are allowed to make up the rules as they go and get away with it, which we find unacceptable.

“Our final demand is that we be provided with rehabilitative and educational services that will help us to heal our addictions and gain new skills, and that will make it much easier for us to adjust to the outside and achieve employment when we are released. Specifically, for our education we would like access to classes beyond GED completion, maintenance, and basic computer skills, access to a library, and English classes for those attempting to learn the language. We feel that the addition of these programs would significantly help us prepare for release and reentry into the world, which would lower re-incarceration rates.

“We also feel strongly that Rikers Island needs to have much better drug rehabilitation programs. Many women who come through here are addicts, and many women are imprisoned here because they are addicts. That’s the area in which reentry rates seems to be the highest. This is likely a direct result of the failure of the meager programs that we are given. Thus, it seems only logical that serious and effective drug rehabilitation programs be provided to those who need them, assuming that the Department of Corrections would like to help work to achieve a better, healthier society and keep as many people as possible out of jail.

“Working with my sisters to organize for change in the confines of jail has strengthened my belief in participatory democracy and collective action. I am inspired by the resilient community I have encountered in a system that is stacked against us. The only difference between people we call “law-abiding” citizens and the women I served time with is the unequal access to resources. Crossing the bridge I am compelled to reach back and recognize the two worlds as undivided. The court sent me here to frighten me and others into silencing our dissent, but I am proud to walk out saying that the 99% is, in fact, stronger than ever. We will continue to fight until we gain all the rights we deserve as citizens of this earth.”

Cecily McMillan is a New York City activist and graduate student wrongfully imprisoned for felony assault of a police officer after an incident at an Occupy Wall Street event on March 17, 2012. Officer Grantley Bovell grabbed her right breast from behind and lifted her into the air, at which other officers joined Officer Bovell in beating McMillan until she had a series of seizures. She was convicted on May 5th after a trial in which Judge Ronald Zweibel disallowed key pieces of evidence from the defense. On May 19th she was sentenced to a 90-day sentence and 5 years of probation after a large public campaign for leniency, which included an appeal to the judge signed by 9 of the 12 jurors, who thought she should be given no further jail time. The sentence on this charge is typically a term of 2-7 years of incarceration.

Message from Maroon – Action Alert

From the Human Rights Coalition – Action Alert:


“This was the third strike – now we either go hard, or go home.”
Greetings! A very happy new year to all my supporters and loved ones!
By now you are aware that I am being housed in an underground cell at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Graterford, in a part of the Restricted Housing Unit known as J Block, which is used to house the criminally insane.
My rapid response team has also got word to you about the conditions in this dungeon: a few days after my arrival I cleaned the human feces off the walls of my cell with my own hands; when it rains, water leaks through a hole in the roof and floods my cell – with heavy rains expected, I am sure this problem will only get worse.
The screaming and banging coming from the surrounding cells of mentally challenged inmates, plus the 24-hour fluorescent lights, make it impossible to concentrate, let alone sleep.
Those of you who have been closely following my situation know that I am being subjected to these conditions DESPITE successfully completing the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC)’s 60-day “step-down” program at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Frackville, which was conducted with the express purpose of releasing me from the hole into the general prison population.
My current circumstances make two things very clear:
  • First, that the Department of Corrections CANNOT be trusted to play by their own rules;
  • Second, that my isolation in the hole has NOTHING to do with administrative or disciplinary concerns but is instead a punishment for my political beliefs, and the prison administration’s fear that these beliefs will reach other prisoners.  They fear that I will awaken the dead . . .
For years, the PA DOC has tried to crush my fighting spirit by keeping me locked up in the hole. This move to SCI Graterford – my third transfer in six months – is just the latest in a series of attempts to test my resolve; it is also, in my opinion, the third strike.
I am here to tell you all that my will is holding strong. I am a political prisoner: imprisoned because I stood up against oppression, and I continue to support all those who stand up against repression everywhere.
My perspective is one thousand years of struggle. My commitment has been – and will always be – the liberation of black people. In that spirit let me say that 2014 is not going to be a year of taking abuse and torture lying down: it is a year in which we either go HARD, or go HOME!
I am calling on you, my supporters, loved ones and friends, to answer that call. This year I am asking you all to do whatever it takes to end the torture of 23-hour isolation and bring an end to this miscarriage of justice.
STRAIGHT AHEAD!           
Russell MAROON Shoatz
# AF-3855, 
P.O. Box 244, 
Graterford, PA 19426-0246
***
ACTION ALERT & UPDATE: CONTINUE THE PRESSURE!
Thank you to all supporters for answering the call to action!  Your phone calls and letters are WORKING.  Maroon received a blanket, clothes, his personal belongings, and his medication. 
Maroon appreciates all your support and diligent action on his behalf. 
However, he is not OUT of this torturous situation.  SCI Graterford authorities still have him buried in solitary confinement – the same Restricted Housing Unit for the criminally insane.  It is an underground dungeon that floods and where the lights are on 24 hours a day.  It is also where Maroon has to endure continuous banging and cries for help from mentally ill prisoners suffering in the same unit.
The time is now to RAMP UP the pressure on Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) Secretary John Wetzel and SCI Superintendent Wenerowicz and Graterford authorities demanding that they immediately remove Maroon from this present condition and release him into general population.    
PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel and PA DOC administrators continue to double cross Maroon by not fulfilling their verbal and written promises to release him into general population even after successfully completing a 60 day Step Down Program at SCI Frackville last fall 2013.
As Maroon stated, “the Dept. of Corrections cannot be trusted to play by their own rules.”
We are asking supporters to INTENSIFY the calls, faxes, and letters to PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel, Superintendent Wenerocwicz, and Graterford authorities.   Remember, Maroon has made the call to “go HARD or go home!”
CALL, FAX, & SEND SEPARATE LETTERS TO:
SCI Graterford Superintendent Michael Wenerowicz
 and 
SCI Graterford RHU J Block Manager Mr. Terra,
P.O. Box 246, 
Graterford, PA 19426-0246 
Phone: 610-489-4151 
FAX: 484-961-7907 
to let them know:
·  We are concerned members of the community who are monitoring the situations involving inmate Russell Shoatz and the conditions he is being held under,
·  We are expecting that SCI Graterford will be accepting the information regarding Shoatz’ successful completion of the step-down program at SCI Frackville, and their recommendation that he be released from Restricted Housing into General Population,
·  We hold PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel and PA DOC administrators responsible for failing to fulfill their promises to release Russell Shoatz into General Population,
·  We request that you immediately remove Russell Shoatz out of the J Block cell for the criminally insane because he doesn’t belong nor deserve to be there, the conditions are torturous, and he is not under Disciplinary Custody, AND
·  We also request that SCI Graterford transfer Russell Shoatz into General Population as promised by Secretary Wetzel and PA DOC authorities.
For letters and faxes, please use the same talking points (letters: return receipt requested).
CALL, FAX, & SEND LETTERS OF CONCERN, PA DOC SUPERINTENDENT JOHN WETZEL, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050, Phone: 717-728-4109, FAX 717-728-4178 to let him know:
·  We are frustrated and angry at the continued delays, and unfulfilled promises, and unwarranted treatment of inmate Russell Shoatz with his most recent transfer into a feces infested cell where the criminally insane are housed in the J Block unit at SCI Graterford.
·  His consistent good faith efforts to abide by all State Correctional procedures for transfer to general population have successfully earned him the support of prison official and administrators at SCI Mahanoy and Frackville.
·  In light of recent US Department of Justice findings that Pennsylvania State Prisons have used solitary confinement in direct violation of inmates’ constitutional rights, and United Nations guidelines regarding the illegality of using restrictive housing for punitive, long-term purposes, we write with concern that Shoatz’ continued placement in restricted housing constitutes an act of torture: cruel and unusual punishment.

·  As voters and community members, we demand Shoatz’ immediate release into general population, and will continue to closely monitor this situation until Shoatz’ conditions are safe and legal.

The Texas Department of Cowboy Justice: A case of lawless law enforcement

by Kevin ‘Rashid’ Johnson

September 7, 2013, SF Bay View

Introduction

As I sit writing this, Lt. Deward Demoss passes my cell making segregation rounds. Further down the tier he exchanges words with another prisoner, then yells down to two unit guards, “Make sure Cell 118 doesn’t eat today.” “Yessir,” they both chime in. Such is the abusive impunity here in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) Estelle 2 Unit (E2U). In fact, guards’ summarily denying prisoners meals in this manner is so routine, there’s a nickname for it here. It’s called “jacking trays.” And that’s the least of it.

'Texas' by Kevin Rashid Johnson, web

“Texas” by Kevin “Rashid” Johnson

I’ve not seen conditions such as exist here in E2U in a long while. The level of abuse is on a par with conditions I described in the autobiographical section of my book that once existed in the segregation unit of Virginia’s Greensville Correctional Center, where guards had a literal license to brutalize and abuse prisoners in the most extreme ways. And these conditions are not accidental.

In fact it’s been made quite clear that I’m here in Texas in direct response to my having brought undesired public scrutiny to Oregon’s and Virginia’s prisons through a series of critical articles and reports about conditions in their prison systems and having sued Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) officials in a recently initiated federal lawsuit.

Indeed, one of my claims in that case was based in part on ODOC officials threatening that if I began litigating against and circulating critical writings about them, I’d find myself permanently in the hole and/or sent to another prison system where I’d be made to suffer much worse than in Oregon. And true to those threats, and only six days before the date on which the federal court had ordered ODOC officials, including its director, to appear and answer in my lawsuit, I was hustled off to the TDJC.

This is an account of what I’ve experienced and witnessed in just a couple of weeks here, which can only be described as Cowboy Justice – as lawless as the Wild West. It is also an appeal to public support and activism.

Welcome to Texas

The above mentioned threats were initially made when I first arrived in Oregon from Virginia in February 2012. Then on May 22, 2013, I was told by ODOC Lt. Kenneth Neff, one of the defendants in my lawsuit, that plans were indeed in motion to transfer me to another prison system where things would definitely be worse. I documented his statement.

On June 14, 2013, I was awakened early in the morning, chained up, and put on a plane bound for Texas. With the exception of only a tiny box of items I was allowed to hurriedly select, all my belongings were left behind in Oregon.

The entire transfer was a setup.

The TDCJ was chosen not in spite – but because – of the fact that I had long dreadlocks and their rule of allowing no exceptions for them, not for religious reasons or otherwise. I was told as much by TDCJ Lt. L. Evans, who presided over the premeditated scheme to shave my head by force, which they knew I’d resist and came prepared.

On arriving in Texas on that June afternoon, I was taken by prison van from the airfield to the Byrd Unit (BU), which is the TDCJ’s intake and orientation prison, where all new admissions to TDCJ are received for orientation, testing, processing etc., which takes about 60 days. I didn’t last five hours.

When I arrived in Oregon in 2012, I went through a similar institution but was given an exception to their haircut requirements upon an ODOC chaplain’s confirmation that my hair was grown for spiritual reasons. No such consideration was given at BU.

On entering the BU I went through the routine procedure of a strip search and was then handcuffed to a thick belt secured at my waist, rendering my arms and hands immobile. I was also leg shackled. This was done in preparation for forcibly cutting my hair and neutralizing my ability to physically resist, of which I was then oblivious.

Then came the ultimatum: My hair had to be cut, either by consent or force. They presented it as though my submission under threat of force was actually an exercise of free choice on my part. Yet when powerless people do the same, it’s a crime: robbery, rape, extortion etc. I protested my spiritual rights.

Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson Self Portrait 2013, web

Rashid in a recent self-portrait

I had none, they replied. Then appeared a group of riot armored guards from hiding around a corner. By choice or by force, they repeated. Although it was a futile gesture, I was resigned to resist. So, against my limited struggles, I was strapped down to a gurney, held down by the armed mob, and had my head and face shaved completely bald.

This constituted the first act of lawless law-enforcement I was to experience or witness in the TDJC. I was outraged, violated in the extreme. Even more so when I found later that the TDJC does in fact allow exceptions to their haircut rule, specifically for Native Americans – which, where other spiritual orientations are not afforded the same consideration, is unlawful discrimination.

My resistance and outrage against the physical attack and forced haircut was then used to justify transferring me from BU – without undergoing the required 60 days processing and orientation process – to the filthy solitary confinement E2U prison. I’d only remained at BU for about four hours.

The welcoming ain’t over

When I arrived at E2U, I was met at the van by yet another mob of riot-armored guards. This group was primed for a more straightforward violent attack, which I verbally noted for the record. A female guard, Mildred Dickie, was initially filming my E2U entry on a portable audio-video camera.

A notoriously abusive E2U guard. Carlos Applewhite, physically moved a smaller guard who was originally standing beside me holding my right arm, took up his position, and repeatedly told me to shut up. Which I ignored and pointed out was both hostile and unprofessional.

I was taken to a holding cell and strip searched by Applewhite with Dickie filming and observing, which I protested as an unconstitutional cross-gender strip search. Applewhite then applied handcuffs – behind my back – and shackles, the latter so tightly I could barely stand or walk, which I also protested. The camera was deactivated at that point and Applewhite barked that I’d either walk or be dragged.

I was limped along by the mob to an office where I was instructed to sit in a chair. The door was closed and the armored group stood just outside of it.

Inside the office with me were B2U Assistant Warden Wayne Brewer, Major David Forrest and Capt. James A. McKee. Brewer was the only one dressed in civilian street clothes, so I inquired of him who he was. He responded, “You shut up, motherfucker, I’m doing the talking!” Then, as if on cue, Forrest and McKee rushed me and proceeded to manually choke and repeatedly hit me in the head and face while Brewer ran a stream of threats and verbal abuse past me, promising he’d break me or kill me. I was told then and repeatedly since that I am now in Texas where prison officials do simply as they please – and get away with it. Period. I replied, when I could breathe, that I wasn’t impressed nor intimidated, and to get on with whatever they had in mind.

When they got tired and saw they were getting nowhere, I was kicked out of the office and taken by the armored group to a filthy cell, which was to be my new TDCJ abode.

The cell I was put into is situated directly in front of another prisoner’s cell, Edward Long, 579657, who was just the day before viciously beaten by Applewhite while he was handcuffed behind his back. The evidence of the attack was blatant: a black ring around his left eye, a laceration along the side of his right eye held closed with sutures tape, a badly bruised face and back, and a grotesquely swollen mouth.

Furthermore, Applewhite routinely goes to Long’s cell to boast and taunt him, admitting how he “beat the shit out of” Long until he lay in a puddle of blood. Under the peculiar conditions of prison, guards actually convince themselves that beating handcuffed prisoners and mob attacking individual prisoners in groups of five or more using gas, body armor and other weapons, are accomplished acts of bravery to boast about and take pride in, instead of pure cowardice on a par with mob rape and large adults who beat small children who by nature and circumstance are at a decided disadvantage.

Applewhite also frequently threatens others with the same, and he and other E2U guards constantly act to provoke situations to speciously justify uses of force in general and cell extractions in particular, which consist of a group of guards with weapons and body armor invading the cell of an individual prisoner by force, whom they invariably beat once restrained.

Here in E2U multitudes of prisoners attest to being victims of beatings by guards. Although there are surveillance cameras throughout the unit, guards typically take prisoners into “blind spots” like offices, closets, elevators etc. where cameras are absent and beat them. During cell extractions they simply turn off or don’t train the audio-video cameras on the prisoner, while kicks and punches are thrown and his head is slammed onto the concrete floor or steel fixtures in the cells, and guards use their bodies to block the cameras.

But in many cases, as with Long, guards beat prisoners openly in video-surveilled areas and video footage is either “lost,” recorded over, ignored, or it’s claimed the use of force wasn’t captured on film.

E2U’s primitive conditions

On top of the rampant physical abuse, living conditions in E2U are barbaric. The unit is infested with roaches which are routinely found in our food or crawling on one while he is sleeping or just sitting still. And guards serve and handle our meals in the most unsanitary manner. Thermoses of juice and stacks of trays are served on the lids of wheeled trashcans. The trays are also routinely set on the filthy unit floor during service.

Guards never wash their hands, never wear head coverings and almost never wear gloves. Trays and beverages are set inside of roach-infested and contaminated metal boxes that are affixed to the outside of the cell doors, in which flies and roaches nest and rush to get at the food served and spilled inside the boxes.

Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson

Rashid in an older self-portrait

Guards also go cell to cell handling the filthy locks, chains and latches to open and close the boxes as they handle and serve the food, trays and beverages. The boxes are never cleaned, and we must also put all items passed into and out of the cells into them, including shoes, dirty linen, worn clothing, such as during searches performed each time we leave the cell.

Should one protest these conditions, he’s almost certain to get “jacked” for his tray.

The cells each have internal showers which frequently leak, causing standing water to remain on the cell floors. The shower drain frequently stops or backs up, and smells of raw sewage. There is no air conditioning, no windows at all. The vents are clogged with debris.

And in addition to the intense Texas summer heat and humidity, the cells remain damp due to lack of air circulation and steam from the shower, which never completely evaporates from the cells. The floor and walls are covered with mildew, and black mold spots the ceilings. The cells reek of mildew.

We are never given cleaning supplies such as toilet brushes, sponges, cloths, brooms, mops, disinfectants etc. The only cleaning supply we receive is a tiny bit of scouring powder once a week.

Prisoners with obvious mental and emotional illnesses scream, rant, bang and argue at fever pitch day and night. Many obviously suffering the effects of living under E2U’s solitary confinement conditions for years on end.

Guards at their whim destroy and trash prisoners’ personal property. Often when they are out of the cell, guards simply enter them and throw items out as trash, especially that of prisoners who challenge them through complaints or in the courts.

This is also done as routine summary retaliation against prisoners who dare speak out against or otherwise challenge abusive guards and conditions. My own address book, a number of pre-posted mailing envelopes and other items I brought with me from Oregon that were inventoried by ODOC officials when I left on June 14 were stolen by TDCJ Officials, evidenced by their exclusion from the inventory made of the same sealed box of property when I got here to Texas.

Meals are grossly inadequate nutritionally, with only half the prescribed meal portions served and entire courses not provided at all at nearly every meal. One literally receives one third the amount of food on the trays at E2U compared with what I received in the ODOC. And the ODOC strictly calculated meal portions and calorie counts to ensure that prisoners receive exactly or just above 2,500 calories per day, which is the legal minimum daily calorie intake for a sedentary adult.

No desserts are served – neither pastries nor fruits – although they factor into calculating daily minimum calorie intake. No condiments are given with the unseasoned meals – neither salt, sugar etc. – which also denies basic minerals. All prisoners whom I’ve spoken to on the subject in E2U suffer the continuous torture of constant hunger pangs.

Many who’ve been confined here for some time explain that food portions and quality have been cut to the extreme by the TDCJ to save money in the face of budget cuts, because of mismanagement of food supplies – prisoner workers in E2U contend that officials steal supplies of food – and to induce prisoners to conform their behavior to officials’ will to achieve privileged statuses in E2U on which they can purchase food and condiments from the commissary. Food is thus used as punishment, behavior modification and a scheme to generate money through commissary sales.

Due no process of law

Although I was never oriented into nor notified of the TDCJ’s rules and procedures, I received three disciplinary charges stemming from my resisting the forced haircut of June 14. On June 18 E2U counselor Staci Crowley came to my assigned cell to notify me of the charges and determine if I wanted to attend the hearings, which I told her I did. I only later found after she’d left that she lied, indicating I refused to attend the hearing. McKee presided as the hearings officer and found me guilty in my absence and without the benefit of my being able to present any defense.

McKee then turned around and presided over deciding my security housing committee hearing and had me assigned to administrative segregation based on his own corrupt guilty findings on the three charges. At the next committee hearing, Forrest, my other assailant, followed suit.

And as I said, guards flaunt their abusive impunity. When I was taken out to my first committee hearing on June 19, Sgt. Bret Wuellner and guard Venson Williams Jr. held me facing a wall standing outside the office where the hearing was to be conducted – the very same office in which I was attacked on June 14.

Another prisoner was in the office being “heard.” As he was being “escorted” from the office by several guards, Wuellner remarked, “Damn, what happened to his face?” The prisoner’s face was swollen and bruised – the obvious result of a recent beating.

California prisoner hunger strike solidarity drawing by Rashid Johnson, Red Onion Prison, Va

Rashid is the artist who drew this symbol of California prisoner hunger strike solidarity when he was still incarcerated at Red Onion Prison in Virginia. The drawing is now recognized around the world by people who care about prisoners.

Also, as I’d stood waiting for his hearing to conclude, another prisoner was “held” awaiting a hearing, sitting in a wheelchair approximately 10 feet from me. He too showed obvious facial injuries resulting from a beating. Concerning this prisoner, Wuellner remarked to Williams that he’d suffered his injuries – including being wheelchair-bound – in a “cell entry.”

Wuellner took this as an opportunity to tell me that here in Texas I was in for a “rude awakening.” He asked if in Virginia I’d ever had guards “put hands” on me. When I only gave him a blank look in response, Williams added, “Take it from a Black man: They do what they want here,” speaking of the ranking white TDCJ officials, “and get away with it.” Williams is a Black guard; Wuellner is white.

To Williams’ remark I couldn’t resist responding that the pathetic thing about him and others like him is he recognizes yet goes along with it. He replied, almost apologetically, “It’s just a job and I’m not going to be here long anyway.” He proved, however, on June 28 in his participation in the brutal assault of another Black prisoner in conspiracy with Wuellner, that he is as much party to the abuse as the most racist of TDCJ officials.

Since being at E2U, I’ve been confronted repeatedly with such obvious ploys as Wuellner’s and Williams’, calculated to intimidate me on the one hand and provoke me on the other. Indeed, this has been the basis of this entire TDCJ experience: to intimidate and provoke.

Indeed, since June 14, and on Brewer’s instructions, I’ve been subjected to frequent strip and cell searches every 30 minutes to two hours every day, around the clock, even during sleeping hours. This began as soon as I was assigned to E2U, following the office assault.

On the second occasion that I was confronted for such a search on that evening, by Sgt. Kyle Nash and two other guards, I questioned the basis and legality of the searches. Their response was to tell me they were frequently searching me “because we can” and used my questioning them as an excuse to attempt to escalate the situation to where force would be justified.

Nash summoned Lt. Patrick Eady to the cell, who stated outright that they were going to “do this the hard way,” and I’m “not going to like it.” He told the guards to “go suit up,” i.e., put on riot armor, and that he wanted them to take me into the back of the cell and “beat on” me. I’d never refused to submit to the search, only questioned it, so when they returned in riot armor, I went through the strip search, was handcuffed behind and brought out of the cell.

At that point, I narrated all that had occurred and Eady’s stated intentions for an audio-video camera that was present and presumably recording. I also stated my need to see medical staff for injuries to my face and throat resulting from the assault on me in the office. Following the search, I was taken inside the cell – out of view of the camera – laid on the floor in back of the cell and hit and kicked in the face and head, which I narrated for the camera to pick up.

On June 15, 2013, I hand delivered a sick call request to a nurse Kathy Burrow to be seen for my injuries which was logged in on June 16 but not acted on within 72 hours as required by TDCJ policy – obviously to cover up my injuries and allow a passage of time for them to heal. I was not seen until two weeks later and only because of outside protest of my situation after I’d managed to get word out.

Damage control

In obvious response to outside pressure, an investigation was staged, beginning long after the fact of the June 14 assaults and my complaints. First, I was seen by a nurse on June 27, who merely looked into my mouth and ears with a light, and gave me several aspirin. The following day I was brought out to see TDCJ Dr. Bobby Vincent, then TDCJ investigator D. Morris.

Just before being brought out of the cell, E2U Lt. Ashley Anderson came to my cell to tell me, in friendly tones, that Brewer had just informed him that he’d decided to end the frequent strip and cell searches he’d had me on since June 14. How convenient – just when I was about to be brought out to see a doctor and speak to an investigator about abuses, including the office assault which he’d arranged.

The doctor, himself a TDCJ employee, seemed more inclined to minimize the remnants of my injuries than to treat me. He admitted the only reason he was seeing me was because of complaints about my being assaulted. He claimed to find only “the slightest swelling” to my left jaw and not to feel a prominent bony protrusion on the right side of my throat, which even a layman can feel right now and recognize it to be abnormal and not present on the left side. No care was given.

'Defying the Tomb' cover by Kevin 'Rashid' Johnson

Order Rashid’s book, “Defying the Tomb,” from Kerspebedeb Left-Wing Books, at https://secure.leftwingbooks.net/index.php?l=product_detail&p=893.

I was then taken into an office to speak with the investigator Morris – again, the same office where I was assaulted. The “interview” was also attended by Capt. Lawrence L. Dawson, Sgt. Tracy D. Puckett and guard Carlos Amaya Jr. under the guise of providing security but obviously to pick up and pass on what all was said.

I provided a statement about the abuses I’d experienced and the conditions in E2U and emphasized several times that I requested a polygraph examination concerning the abuses and that those who’d assaulted me should be asked to submit to the same – which I know they’d decline – since whatever they said in reply to my complaints would obviously be given preferential consideration by any TDCJ “investigator,” not only because they’re officials and coworkers, but because they are among the highest ranking in the prison.
And this was a case that would prove quite embarrassing to TDCJ’s highest officials, since it would show the abuses are not mere deviant misbehaviors of low-level rogue guards but rather permissive abuse that runs to the highest administrative levels.

The entire force of an “investigation,” however, is as always staged for damage control and seldom provides any meaningful outcome, except only in cases where there is sustained and broad public outrage. And again, only enough is done to pacify that protest. It’s then back to business as usual. In fact, what Morris seemed most concerned about was whether I intend to sue the TDCJ over the abuses.

Still outta control

On that very same day that I spoke to Morris, yet another brutal assault was staged on a prisoner in E2U, involving Wuellner, Williams and the guard Amaya, who’d sat in on and listened attentively to my statement about the assaults on me, from which they obviously took pointers. The assaulted prisoner remains in the hospital as I write this.

I personally witnessed the setup.

The victim, Joe Laws, 553289, is one of the few E2U prisoners who’s refused to be terrorized by E2U guards. As a result of his resistance to their abuses, the guards both fear and hate him. Given this dynamic, an attack of the sort staged on June 28 was inevitable.

Laws allegedly had a run-in with guards earlier that morning. No immediate response followed, obviously because the investigator from the TDCJ director’s office, D. Morris, was at the prison. Also, the guards who attacked Laws used the exact same tactic to assault Laws as I’d explained to Morris that Eady had guards use on me on June 14 inside the cell. Only in Laws’ case they went to the extreme.

The guards who participated in the Laws assault were Amaya, a guard named Smith (believably Nathaniel Smith), Cody Gonzalez, Williams and one other – either Gregory Shipman or Michael Lewis – all of whom were “suited up” in riot armor. They were supervised by Wuellner, and guard Jalisa R. Jackson was operating the portable audio-video camera. When force is used, the guard with the camera is to film the prisoner at all times. However, as the guard did with me on June 14, Jackson stood far off to the side of the cell so the camera would not film activity inside the cell once the guards took Laws into the back of it.

Just 30 minutes before their shift was set to go off at 6 p.m., these guards confronted Laws in body armor for a staged cell search, in pretended response to the altercation that happened almost 12 hours earlier. Following a strip search, Laws was brought out and stood against the wall outside the cell while the cell search was enacted. Jackson “alerted” Wuellner the video camera was not working.

The riot armored guards then took Laws into the back of the cell and laid him face down on the floor, whereupon they acted to remove the handcuffs and back out of the cell in an orderly retreat. At that point Wuellner announced loudly that should Laws try to rise from the floor, force would be used.

Laws never tried to get up. Wuellner told the guards to “get him,” then announced with feigned excitement that Laws tried to rise, was “resisting.” On Wuellner’s cue, the guards rushed back into the cell and began beating and kicking Laws in the head and face. Smith was doing so with steel-toed boots.
The entire wing of prisoners witnessed the attack by sight and/or sound, and many began in outrage to kick their cell doors and yell at the guards in protest. Laws was beaten at length, following which the guards then retreated from the cell and hastily shut the door.

Wuellner then pretended to try and take photographs of Laws on a digital camera as TDCJ policy requires whenever force is used on a prisoner. However he quickly announced the battery was dead so the required still photos couldn’t be taken. Laws was left in the cell bleeding profusely from the head and face.
Their dirty work done, the group of guards left the wing to go home, it being the end of their shift and they being set to have the next four days off.

No nurses nor other medical staff are present in E2U from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. – a gross legal violation – so their attack was also timed to occur when no medical staff would be on hand to examine Laws, as is also required whenever force is used. The next shift was left to pick up the pieces.

Laws suffered a large gash in back of his head, the result of being kicked by Smith with steel-toed boots, several of his teeth were knocked out while others were driven up into his gums, a gash inside his mouth, a fractured jaw, his eye swollen closed, and other injuries.

GÇÿCollective StruggleGÇÖ by Kevin GÇÿRashidGÇÖ Johnson, web

As the drums of war beat against Syria, Rashid has given us a lot to ponder in this drawing he calls “Collective Struggle.”

As I collected the facts on everything, it took numerous prisoners kicking and banging on their cell doors and becoming primed to create havoc to get unit Sgts. Shelby Rayfield and Dustin Harkness to the wing and Laws taken to the hospital, where he has remained for several days. Guards who took him out confirmed he’d lost teeth and others were disfigured, he had over a dozen staples put in back of his head, his jaw was broken etc.

The attack on Laws was obvious retaliation and timed and conducted so as to minimize on-the-spot evidence of a beating and the extent of his consequent injuries. This entire “cover-up” was so amateurish as to be pointless, which only reflects how little these guards worry about consequences for abuse and how free they are of any sort of meaningful administrative oversight, beyond mere formalities.

In fact, as my own case demonstrates, E2U administrators themselves engage in just the same abuses. That couldn’t occur unless that clearance is given all the way up to the level of TDCJ Executive Director Brad Livingston and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, which is exactly where the lawless executives of Texas take their cues.

Conclusion

In footnotes to this article I will cite the multitude of federal laws – the highest law of the land – violated by the conditions and abuses described throughout this article, demonstrating the genuinely “lawless” character of the Texas officials behind them, whose duty is foremost to defend, apply and “enforce” those very laws, so one cannot mistake the authority of these people or their institutions as anything but illegal and illegitimate.
And it reveals the hypocrisy of U.S. officials when they denounce other governments as dictatorial and terroristic for doing much the same and even less than what’s been done on U.S. soil to U.S. citizens by the U.S. government. Prisoners in Texas’ E2U need as much public support as possible. And it must be broad-based and sustained. Because what’s happening to us on the inside is fated for those on the outside as Amerika becomes more and more overtly a police state and laws become less and less a restraint on official impunity.

Dare to struggle! Dare to win!
All power to the people!

Rashid Johnson, a longtime prisoner in Virginia who was transferred last year to Oregon and recently to Texas, has been held in segregation since 1993. While in prison he founded the New Afrikan Black Panther Party – Prison Chapter. As a writer, Rashid has been compared to George Jackson, and he is also the artist who drew the image that became the icon of the California hunger strikes. His book, “Defying the Tomb,” with a foreword by Russell “Maroon” Shoats and afterword by Sundiata Acoli, can be ordered at leftwingbooks.net, by writing to Kersplebedeb, CP 63560, CCCP Van Horne, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3W 3H8, or by emailing info@kersplebedeb.com. Send our brother some love and light: Kevin Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107.

Action call

by Karl Kerspebedeb
Since his article “The Texas Department of Cowboy Justice: A case of lawless law enforcement” was written, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson has been transferred yet again, this time to the Clements Unit in Amarillo, Texas.

Supporters had been calling on Texas officials to remove Rashid from Estelle, a unit with a documented history of staff violence and impunity. (Besides Rashid’s aforementioned article, see the recent piece on Truthout: “Beatings and Threats: Odyssey of a Prisoner-Advocate, From Virginia to Texas” at http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/18167-beatings-and-threats-odyssey-of-a-prisoner-advocate-from-virginia-to-texas.)

Yet while Rashid is now out of reach of the guards who abused him at Estelle, any impression that this is a “victory” will likely prove illusory. Rashid himself has written in a recent letter to supporters, “To the extent that you all’s hassling them prompted this transfer, I’m thankful – although from what I’m told, conditions here are no better than at the Estelle Unit.”

While we wait to see what happens at Clements, our priority at this point is that Rashid regain access to his personal belongings.

When he was transferred from Oregon to Texas in June, some 41 boxes of personal belongings were supposed to follow. Any property that the Texas Department of Criminal Justice was unwilling to allow Rashid to have was supposed to be transferred to the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Furthermore, Rashid was supposed to receive his legal documents that he requires for his lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections. So far none of this has been done, and Rashid is increasingly concerned about what has happened to his property – literally, everything he owns in the world.

Please telephone Virginia Interstate Compact Coordinator Terry Glenn at (804) 887-7866 and ask why Kevin Johnson, VDOC No. 1007485, has not yet received any of his property. It has been two months since Rashid was transferred from Oregon, and if he does not get his property soon, this will directly impact his ability to conduct his lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections.

For more information, see the website rashidmod.com.

Write Rashid at his new address: Kevin Johnson, 1859887, Clements Unit, 9601 Spur 591, Amarillo, TX 79107. Make sure a first and last name are clearly printed in the return address section of the envelope or your mail will be returned.

Karl Kerspebedeb is Rashid’s friend, publisher and webmaster for http://rashidmod.com/. He can be reached at info@kersplebedeb.com.

Amnesty International: USA: California prison authorities ‘toying with the lives’ of inmates on hunger strike

From: Amnesty International, August 30th 2013:
The refusal by California’s prison authorities to explore options to resolve the hunger strike crisis in the state’s high security units is a dangerous move that could lead to the deaths of inmates in their custody, Amnesty International said.
More than 30,000 prisoners joined a hunger strike last July over inhumane detention conditions in California’s security housing units (SHUs). More than 70 are still refusing food.
“It’s nothing short of appalling that instead of dealing with the complaints, California’s prison authorities have chosen to threaten inmates with force-feeding and disciplinary measures, and have moved some to other facilities,” said Tessa Murphy, Campaigner on the USA at Amnesty International.
“No one should be punished for exercising the right to peaceful protest. California prison authorities must stop toying with people’s lives and meet with the mediation team to begin a meaningful process of negotiation.”
Amnesty International has also received reports that some of those on hunger strike have been denied medical care.
This week, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) published a press release saying that it had addressed some of the inmates’ demands.
“Recent proposals by California’s prison authorities do not go far enough to address the inhumanity that permeates many aspects of the security housing units, including lengthy periods during which inmates are held in isolation and excessively harsh conditions of confinement including lack of social contact and programming,” said Tessa Murphy.
“The rehabilitation of prisoners is absolutely essential for their positive reintegration into society at the end of their sentence.”
Amnesty International is calling on CDCR to reduce the length of the step down programme and to make meaningful changes to the isolation units, particularly in Pelican Bay prison, with an emphasis on increased social contact and rehabilitation.
On 19 August, a federal court issued a decision that would allow the state to force-feed hunger strikers “at risk of near-death or great bodily injury”. The court also ruled that the state may ignore “do not resuscitate” directives if they were signed for the purpose of the hunger strike, or if the state believes they were achieved through coercion.
The force feeding of mentally competent hungers strikers is contrary to medical ethics and breaches their right to freedom of expression.

Private prisons are shameful and Prison profiteers should not be community leaders!

From: National Prison Disvestment Campaign
By: Jesse Fruhwirth
December 6th, 2012

The Utah Democratic Party is on the verge of choosing a private-prison profiteer to be a party officer. Management and Training Corporation vice chair Jane Marquardt is the hands-down favorite to win the race for party vice chair (yep, same job title), which will be held Saturday. 

We want your help in the next two days to persuade the party that private prisons are shameful and prison profiteers should not be community leaders!

While there are many reasons including mass incarceration to oppose for-profit prisons as an entire industry and on principle alone, there are some particularly problematic factors about MTC.

  • What torture? Lane McCotter, former director of Utah Department of Corrections in the 1990s, resigned after it was proven that a 29-year old schizophrenic inmate died after being strapped naked to a restraint chair for 16 hours. Rather than having to find a job in a completely new industry after being disgraced by his professional peers, McCotter was then hired by MTC as their business development director. In 2003, shortly after abuses were found to be rampant in a New Mexico prison under MTC and McCotter’s supervision, he was asked by the US Department of Justice to reestablish Iraq’s prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib. According to UK’s Guardian, “McCotter left Iraq to resume his executive job at MTC in September 2003, a month before the worst documented atrocities against Iraqi prisoners occurred.” Terry Stewart, another MTC profiteer, is the former Arizona department of corrections chief and helped McCotter with Iraq’s prisons.
  • Donations to racist policies: MTC has also favored racist immigration policies and politicians. MTC’s political action committee gave money to former Arizona Rep. Russell Pearce, the sponsor of Arizona’s immigration law SB1070 in the months leading up to his sponsorship of that law–Jane Marquardt herself donated to the PAC just months before that PAC donated to Pearce. SB 1070 was written by CCA and GeoGroup, the number 1 and number 2 private prison corporations, allegedly in conjunction with state lawmakers. SB 1070 is one of the most palpable examples of how private-prison industry frequently aligns and its money is used to hire lobbyists to demand more prisoners and bribe/donate to politicians to stoke racist fears in the public for more immigration detentions.
  • Low Standards and Cheap Profits: A 2010 jail-break at an MTC prison lead to two people’s deaths. The Arizona Department of Corrections review of the tragedy reports that MTC prison staff didn’t know how to work the alarm, “staff are not proficient with weapons,” and perhaps most concerning, “it appears that very little action was taken to prepare the physical plant and the staff for the transition (from Minimum security custody) to Medium (Security) Custody in April 2010.” You know, because properly housing dangerous people is really expensive and there are profits to be found in keeping expenses low.

It’s time that people wake up that Jane Marquardt and prison profiteers can NOT buy our respect and should not be allowed to buy political influence.  Indeed, Utah Democrats this week need to hear that prison profiteers should be ostracized from polite society–disinvite her from your holiday parties, Democrats, and certainly don’t elect her to be among party leadership.

You can help: Contact newly elected Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.  He is highly influential and popular and has endorsed Jane Marquardt, even appearing in a campaign video for her.  Tell Mayor McAdams that prison profiteers are not community leaders–they are parasites that suck the life from our families and our communities.  We’ve got two days to change his mind!

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams 801-618-1946

Also, call MTC, ask for Scott Marquardt–that’s Jane’s brother and boss–he’s the chair of MTC. Tell him that no one from a private prison company should be running for leadership of a community organization.  Tell him we want Divestment from Private Prisons–not prison profiteers in positions of political power.

Management and Training Corporation 801-693-2600

Also, you can litter her campaign Facebook page with messages. Let her supporters know what you think of private prison profits!

https://www.facebook.com/JaneMarquardtForUtahDemocraticPartyViceChair

We Are Human

This is a guest post on the weblog Live from Lockdown, “the real deal, authentic and uncensored. Born in the Bureau of Prisons’ Special Management Unit (SMU) at one of the nation’s most notorious prisons- the Big House, USP Lewisburg”: 

November 14th 2012

I’m writing this piece on prison life due to the fact that there is so much going on within this prison system, specifically the NJ Department Of Corrections (NJDOC), that society should know. These issues really need to be exploited and hopefully whoever reads this will be able to get it to the media and really put the issues on the table.

I’ve been incarcerated for a little over ten years now, and I’ve pretty much seen things in this prison system, which are not only a violation of my rights but to society as well. I say that because the way we are treated and conditioned in here is the way most of us will come home and carry ourselves because this is all we know after being incarcerated in these conditions for so long. Prepare yourself for what it is to be HELD PRISONER in Trenton (NJ) State Prison’s Management Control Unit (M.C.U.)…..

FOOD?
First, I will touch on the food being served daily. Most days the food that is supposed to be served hot is usually the exact opposite, cold. For example, I can get a tray of oatmeal and put my spoon in it to take a bite and literally pick up the whole serving at once. That’s usually how most of our food is. I’ve even saw one of the brothers open one of the milks and there was some type of black tar stuck to the inside of the milk carton. Finding dead and live insects in a meal in here doesn’t surprise the average prisoner at all. Mice droppings have also become part of some of our diets as well. Moldy bread is so normal in certain areas in this prison system that I actually heard someone trying to convince another prisoner that mold can be good for them in some ways. Not to mention that most of the food we are served really does look like vomit. How can a person sit down and eat something that looks like cold vomit?

We are treated like this because we are convicted felons and a lot of us have committed some very harsh crimes. In the eyes of most we should not be treated fairly or even be alive for that matter, but the fact still remains that WE ARE HUMAN and deserve to be treated as such. Not to mention that just because you are in prison you have committed a crime. In my eyes, from what I know, there are more innocent people in prison than there are on the street.

PHYSICAL CONDITIONS OF THE MANAGEMENT CONTROL UNIT
Another issue I want to touch on is the living conditions we are FORCED to endure. These cages they house us in shouldn’t even be utilized for animals, let alone humans. The paint is so badly chipped and falling off the walls that it can’t be safe to be around 24-hours per day. Most of the toilets and sinks are so messed up that these plumbers are probably the busiest workers in this prison system. If I flush my toilet, my feces come up in my neighbor’s toilet in the cell next to mine and vice versa.

WATER?
As for the “water” that’s coming out of the sink, it isn’t clear at all. The water that comes out of these sinks is white. Sometimes if I’m lucky, I will catch it clear. Still, I know it’s no pure because the smell of it is one that automatically draws a warning sign in your head not to drink it.

Air?
The vents meant for air circulation are so filthy and dusty that it is impossible for them to serve their original purpose. There are two vents in these cells. The one that blows usually blows out a smell that will eventually push us to just block the entire thing up, period. The one that is for suction is so clogged and dusty that it barely works. With the vents like this, it almost always causes us to get sick and sometimes even stay sick. These types of living conditions are definitely a health hazard to us as well as the staff that are around us 24 hours per day.

SHELTER?

Another thing is the ceiling leaks water into our cells on rainy days. The more it rains outside, the more water literally leaks in our cells; all over our beds, electronics, down our walls, and even to the hallways on the tier. We’ve wrote this issue up so many times through the remedy system and still the issue remains. This is pretty much an M.C.U. issue.

FILTH
There is so much dust and dirt throughout this prison that I’m almost certain that it’s killing us slowly. There are guys that have been incarcerated in this prison so long that it is impossible to say that these conditions are not just affecting them. The Administration just doesn’t seem to care at all. In my eyes, they’d rather let us live in cruel conditions and save money than fix these problems.

Not only are the living conditions cruel and unusual punishment but the simple fact that they make us spend years in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) is literally having a real negative affect on us mentally.

PHYSICAL and PSYCHOLOGICAL AFFECTS of SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
Solitary confinement has proven to be very dangerous to a person’s physical and mental health, especially in cases of extended isolation. Personally, I have experienced some of the negative affects of solitary confinement such as not being comfortable around other people. I also can’t be myself around people any more. It’s like I shy away from people whenever they try to talk to me, or I start stuttering and get nervous during conversations because I am just not used to them any more. I even get like this when my own family comes to visit me now.

The only way I can truly express myself is simply by writing. I’ve been in solitary for over five years and have ten years to go. It’s like the longer I am here and isolated from others, I don’t trust anyone else, and my guard is always up whenever I’m around other people. The reason why it feels crazy to me is because I am well aware of it, and I know that it has to be the solitary confinement. But, still, I can’t help it when put in a position around others. Nonetheless, I do everything in my power to keep my sanity such as: reading, writing, praying, and exercising. Deep down inside, I know I need help.

I’ve seen guys lose their minds in here right in front of my eyes. One minute they were alright and the next minute they didn’t even know where they were. That’s what scares me the most. I don’t want to be one of those guys. The thing is, they don’t want to give me the help I need. So now I ask myself questions like, how much longer can I hold out?

ADMINISTRATIVE SEGREGATION (Ad-Seg)
Another issue is the ad-seg conditions throughout the NJDOC system. Administrative Segregation is a lockup where prisoners are put in whenever they are institutionally charged with an infraction of some sort. In addition to being placed in ad-seg for fifteen years, I ws put on M.C.U. status as well. The Management Control Unit is also a lockup for gang leaders who have too much influence, guys that have killed or seriously hurt Correction Officers, guys with extensive disciplinary histories, a violent past, or pose a threat to others and the facility.

CHANGES TO AD-SEG COMMISSARY CATALOG
Recently, they made a change to the commissary catalog for ad-seg prisoners throughout the entire New Jersey prison system. They took things off our catalogs that were actually more helpful than anything. For example, we used to be able to order vitamins- such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E and multivitamins. Now, they told us we can’t order them any more. They never gave a specific reason. They just said we can’t.
The only type of food that ad-seg prisoners are now allowed to order is all junk and sweets. There is no actual real food on the commissary order form for ad-seg prisoners like there used to be. They just recently changed this on November 1, 2011. They removed all the soups, fish, chicken, and other foods and left us with stuff that will eventually give us diabetes if we choose to eat it. To be honest, most of us don’t have a choice. We just can’t simply eat the slop they serve. Even if we do eat it, the portions are so little that we are left still hungry.

So first they take all the vitamins and other health products off of commissary, then they take all the food off and add all the junk food and sweets. Does this seem like people trying to help or trying to hurt us?
It’s not like ad-seg prisoners don’t have to endure these conditions for years at a time in most cases. I am a prime example that that’s not true. This is not only a disgrace, but it’s also a health hazard.
They won’t let us order surge suppressors (outlet protectors) anymore. These prisons have power outages regularly. At one point in time, the power outages were so bad that eventually they actually put out a memo saying that we need to order surge suppressors so the power outages wouldn’t blow out our T.V.’s and other electronics. We did as told so our property wouldn’t be destroyed. Now, not only are they saying we can’t have them, but they actually came and took them away from us. It was like a big money scam or something…

STATE PAY
Ad-seg prisoners also used to get “State Pay”. Basically, you would get about $18/month or so to buy the necessities such as toiletries (most can’t use the soap they give out here because it breaks them out), food for those who cannot eat what they serve, shower slippers, towels, washcloths, and other things that they do not provide but are needed. They just stopped giving ad-seg inmates State Pay, but regular population still gets State Pay. There are so many guys in ad-seg who don’t have family helping them or no support out there at all who can put money in their accounts so they could get what’s needed for survival. These guys are back here slowly losing their minds because in all actuality there’s only but so much a person can take.

SMOKING
Then, to top it all off, they just up and stopped everyone from smoking. There were no programs to help you quit, no substitutes- no nothing. Just forced to stop! I’m not mad at the that want us to stop smoking, but it’s they way they did it. There are guys who had been smoking for so long that they are now in here literally losing their minds because they were forced to stop. It’s good to stop smoking but the way they did it is very dangerous to prisoners as well as staff. And if they want to stop us from smoking out of concern for our health, what about our dietary needs and the facilities issues?

EDUCATION and REHABILITATIVE PROGRAMS?
Another thing being done to ad-seg prisoners is that we are being denied schooling and rehabilitative programs. I literally have all the paperwork needed to back this up, an I am willing to mail anyone a copy who is reading this and willing to do something about it. I’ve written so many requests, letters and remedy forms letting them know that I would like to participate in their rehabilitative programs because I really want to change my life for the best. I’m willing to do what I can to learn how to become a better man and just learn the right ways to do things. I explained to them that I have fifteen years ad-seg, and I don’t want to sit here and not earn from it. They literally told me that I can’t take any of their programs because I am on ad-seg status. They said they do not offer any programs to ad-seg prisoners.

First and foremost, I have a right to rehabilitation by law. This prison system is basically designed to rehabilitate prisoners and get us ready for our return to society. By them denying me rehabilitative programs contradicts the whole purpose of the NJDOC. If anything, the guys on ad-seg are the ones who should really be getting the programs due to the fact that they are the ones allegedly catching the institutional infractions and getting into trouble.

I’ve got fifteen years ad-seg, M.C.U. status, and I’ve basically been in trouble since my incarceration. Now, I’m coming for help so I can better myself and change my life and they tell me no. How does that help anyone? And people wonder why a lot of guys come home with the same mentality, if not worse, they had when they went in. It’s because we aren’t getting any type of real help in here. It’s because these people rather keep any funds they receive to rehabilitate us and just simply tell us they aren’t going to help us.

Right now, I’m in Trenton (NJ) State Prison. Before I came here I was in Northern State Prison where I worked extra hard to obtain my high school diploma by enrolling in school and dedicating my days and nights to learning my work. Once I finally obtained my diploma, I immediately enrolled in a college correspondence course so I could obtain my College Degree in Psychology. Everything was smooth until I was transferred here to Trenton State Prison for a disciplinary infraction I caught. Once I got here, they immediately started denying me the access I needed to continue my courses because I’m an ad-seg prisoner and, according to them, ad-seg prisoners aren’t allowed to do anything but serve their ad-seg time. I explained to them that I was already in ad-seg when I started my college courses in Northern State Prison and that I would like to finish my courses and obtain my degree. They said no. That was in September 2010.

 I’ve been fighting for the right to continue my college courses and take rehabilitative programs since. I’ve explained to the administration on numerous occasions that I’ve been in ad-seg for over five years and have ten years left. I shouldn’t have to be here this long without schooling, rehabilitation or any other type of help for that matter. I’ve done my best to explain that I really want help. I’ve even sent letters to Commissioner Gary Lanigan, Governor Christopher Christie and other government officials about being denied the right to rehabilitation and education. Still, no progress. They are literally about to make me sit in solitary confinement for fifteen years and do nothing! This is the type of prison environment we are coming home from. What do you honestly expect guys’ minds to be like when they come from this type of setting?

Once again, I have all the necessary documents to back up all of these facts I’m putting out there about this prison system.

PHYSICAL ABUSE
Another issue in here is the physical abuse by Correction Officers of the NJDOC. This is basically the reason why I have fifteen years ad-seg and M.C.U. status. This and the fact that they labeled me as a gang leader for the Bloods. I refuse to just stand there and watch physical abuse take place with another prisoner or especially with me. I’ve assaulted many officers in this prison system because they simply have it in their heads that they are just going to physically hurt us, and we will not, or should not, defend ourselves. This prison system is hiding so many incidents where they hurt guys very badly for no reason at all and in some cases they’ve even killed prisoners.

Nonetheless, the incidents aren’t being properly investigated. If they were, it would be known that the officer was dead wrong. I’ve been in incidents with these officers where even after I was handcuffed and restrained, they continued to assault me. They are cowards at heart and brainwashed at mind. It’s just so bad that they have transformed from prison guards into a gang amongst themselves. I will not say that it is all of them because there a lot of them who don’t partake in this behavior but the majority of them are guilty of these actions. As long as this type of behavior is taking place, I will continue to defend innocent brothers and myself. Most of these prison guards are so brainwashed and institutionalized that they start to act like they are locked up too. They do things we do such as collect commissary and make hookups (prison meals). They steal our magazines out of the mail. They pretty much have created an “Us against Them” environment. It’s strange to me because most of the time these officers aren’t even mentally stable. How did they even get the job to begin with?

I argued with an officer in here one day and he literally showed me a knife he had in his possession. He told me that he would definitely use it if I tried him. On one occasion, the officers planted a knife in my cell so they could set me up to get more charges. This indictment took place in 2007 right after the 2007 Rahway Prison riot, which I was involved in. I requested a polygraph test to prove that they planted the knife in my cell and the administrator of this prison at the time sent me a letter denying the polygraph. She said I couldn’t get a polygraph due to my extensive disciplinary background. That doesn’t have anything to do with me wanting to prove to her that I was innocent and her officers were dirty. She knew what it was already and that’s why I was denied. I have all the paperwork to prove this as well.

THE MENTALLY ILL
They even have prisoners in here that are beyond mentally disturbed who are not being treated at all. No medication, no attention- nothing. These guys bang on the doors all day and throw food and feces at people and, in some cases, even assault and murder other prisoners. Still, no help.

I’m literally on the same tier with a guy right now that murdered his cellmate a few years back and does nothing but kick his door, throw things, blow the power out of his socket, and much more. They don’t have him on medication, no programs, nothing! All they did was weld his plug sockets shut so he won’t blow the power out any more and took all his property. Would you consider something like that to help? He’s just one example there are many more just like him.

I’ve seen them carry so many dead prisoners out of here in body bags simply because somebody wasn’t getting the right treatment. Regardless if it was the guy that killed himself or, as it is in most cases, one prisoner killing another. Nonetheless, they rather worry about coming in our cells and taking extra sheets or trashing our cells to make us mad. Most of the officers that are being hired to work here belong in these cages.

THE SYSTEM
This system is so corrupt that it is literally damaging the minds of prisoners and officers more than ever. This is the type of system that the people of New Jersey are contributing their tax dollars towards. The minute this is publicly exploited, I’m sure sure they will deny all of it and make it sound convincing as well. But once again, I have proof for most of it and if these issues are properly investigated, all of what I’m saying will be proved true.

WE ARE HUMANS AND DESERVE TO BE TREATED AS SUCH.

The way this system runs it automatically breeds the mentalities of murderers, hate, thieves, and much more because the only thing being taught in here is negativity.

It has got to the point where they blame everything like the assaults taking place in here and things like that on gang violence. But then deny us the help we need and seek.

THE SYSTEM IS THE ISSUE

Until these issues are taken seriously it will only get worse. There will be no improvement whatsoever.

AND THERE’S MUCH MORE
What I’ve told you in this correspondence isn’t even half of what’s going on in here. I’m just giving you a brief summary of what it’s like to be held prisoner in solitary confinement in New Jersey. Most of what I’ve written in this letter is specifically directed to this prison Trenton (NJ) State Prison, but it also goes for all the other prisons in New Jersey. I’ve been to a few and they are basically the same.

HELP!
As I’ve said there is much more going on in here, which is being covered up by the people who run the NJDOC. If anyone reading this wants me to further elaborate on other issues, all you have to do is contact me.
Hopefully, someone who cares will read this and take immediate action towards correcting these problems.

Julius Wilson will be 29 years old on December 27, 2012. He is from Newark, NJ– the Weequahic Section– Elizabeth Avenue– The Towers from Renner to Meeker. Many may know him by the nickname “GRIMEY”. A lot may also know him as “JU”. 

He’s currently serving a 25-year sentence for a Felony Murder, which he maintains he was wrongfully convicted of, and has been incarcerated since 2002. 

Right now he’s in the Management Control Unit (MCU) of Trenton State Prison (NJSP), after having been sentenced to 15-years Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg) and permanent M.C.U. The MCU is a 23 & 1 lockdown and long-term isolation unit. 

Send light to
Julius Wilson #509928-541478-C 
NJSP
P.O. Box 861
Trenton, NJ 08625

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