Fight locks down portion of Washington State Penitentiary

There clearly is something wrong at WA State Pen in Walla Walla, after a fight broke out twice in the last few days. We also got a message from a prisoner who has nothing to do with this fighting, that things have become worse and worse since he has been there the last few years.

See a notice WA DOC gave out about another fight, in Echo unit, WSP, on 2/4/12: here.

See also here at News Tribune (Tricity Herald)

Feb 3rd 2012

A unit at the Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla has been locked down through the weekend after a fight Tuesday that injured one inmate.

The fight broke out at about 8 p.m. Tuesday in a commons area of one of the prison’s four close-custody living units, which is the prison’s second-highest custody level, the Washington State Department of Corrections said.

The injured inmate’s condition is not known. Another inmate was placed in segregation, DOC said.

No staff members were injured.

Officials said they expect the unit where the assault occurred to remain locked down through the weekend. Three other units at the West Complex that were locked down have been restored to normal operations.

Read the rest here.

Institutionalized Damaged Goods

This article is taken with permission from Nevada Prisoner Voice, May 2nd 2009:

© 2009 by the author, whose name is protected at this time. All Rights Reserved. For Permissions, Email:

Institutionalized Damaged Goods

America’s prison systems have adapted a locked down twenty-three hours a day policy in many states throughout the country.

Officials attempt to justify this policy by stating that this cuts down prison violence and crimes.

What prison administrators have clearly turned a blind eye to is the many surveys done by psychological experts showing the negative effects that this policy has on people inside prison.

I’ve witnessed many men under these conditions psychologically deteriorate, some even surrendering to suicide.

On the other hand, there are some of us that fool ourselves into finding contentment with our conditions. But the truth is, contentment is not what prisoners are feeling. That would be abnormal behavior.

What it is, is a false image we adopt to display our strength to endure, but to truly witness what we are going through is to watch us when no one is looking.

As a man dealing with this daily, I’ll give you an inside view of my struggle.

It’s a constant war between sanity and insanity because every day we’re confronted with our thoughts of failures, which alter our emotions.

I’ve built up such an open tolerance for emotional pain that I can only cry in my sleep.

I laugh sometimes, but happiness is only short lived because of the constant reminder of our situation and sins.

There are other times when I want to lash out and inflict some of the pain I feel on others. Though I’m wise enough to know that this is self-destructive behavior.

Many give in to these thoughts and become what we call “crush dummies.”

A crush dummy is a prisoner so overwhelmed with his anger that he will provoke guards into a cell extraction. This is when a group of guards enter a cell to remove a prisoner often resulting in their beating the prisoner senseless, sometimes killing the prisoner.

Prisoners are not always to blame for these attacks. Many guards who work in prisons feel that it is their job to punish prisoners. They realize it’s not hard to provoke a confrontation with a prisoner in a lock down situation.

This will give them the justification to beat prisoners.

Another effect of these conditions is that we’re faced with many losses over time, lost relationships with family and friends. Loved ones pass away. Twent-three hours a day we must deal with this with no counseling, though they have a psychological department here at this prison. It is a shameful one.

There is no medical confidentiality. All interviews are conducted at your cell door where other prisoners can hear what’s being discussed. So, most prisoners learn to suppress emotions, which becomes dangerous and may lead to a psychological meltdown.

Though many of us deserve to be in prison, we don’t deserve to be dehumanized. Some of us committed bad crimes, but that does not make us bad people.

History shows us that people can change.

I, myself, have become a better human being. But, what I fear is what I may become after being under these conditions.

So, this is a cry for your help.

Please write to your state legislative representative or congressperson.

Ask them to pass laws to abolish these lock down policies and to implement more conducive programs for prisoners, plus, private counseling in lockdown units.

Remember, many of us will once again be free.

With your help we can come out of here mentally healthy ready to be productive citizens.

If you wish to know more about our constant struggle, please feel free to contact me through:


Shackled to my thoughts – words from the graveyard

This is an article posted on the Website of D.R.I.V.E. (Death Row Inner Communalist Vanguard-Engagement), an organization in solidarity with those on death row in Texas. Inmates in other States also show their solidarity with those on DR in Texas.

Here is an article by Coyote, who is incarcerated in Nevada. He wrote this in 2006.

Shackled to My Thoughts
by Coyote Sheff

With incarceration comes darkness and once you’ve been subjected by the darkness the only thing to do is search for light. I guess that’s why since I’ve been down I’ve always craved an insatiable hunger for knowledge, for elevated thinking and higher learning. Many things that I’ve learned in here, I’ve learned through raw experience, personal pain or strife. My other sources of knowledge have been obtained through intense research and study – mostly ‘cell study’! But there have been many things I’ve learned through other convicts.

That comes with being solid. There have been many different convicts and comrades throughout the years who had enough decency and respect to take time out to show me things, ideas, perspectives or ways to get ahead, ways to get over and ways to get around the pickle-suit oppressors. That’s what being a convict is about, knowing how to do time; to look out for other convicts. Because, like it or not we are all cuffed by the same cuffs, we are all shackled by the same shackles, we are all in this madness together.

I always had convicts around me to pass me a new piece of literature or a book, or someone decent enough to encourage me to pursue my studies even further, to develop my own writing skills and to put my skills to use. Ever since, a fire has been raging inside me and I’ve been on some unknown mission to keep it burning by igniting the torches of others who I see have potential or who are ambitious or who seek to grasp and understand things more higher, deeper than their normal perceptions of what they consider to be REALITY.

If the conditions of confinement aren’t sad enough, it’s as if nowadays, in these lockdown situations, the weirdos seem to outnumber the solid convicts. When I say weirdos I’m mainly speaking about the inmates and psych-patients who should be in protective custody or a Mental Health Facility, the ones who are either openly working against the solidarity and unity of the prisoner class, in conjunction with the Administration, or the ones who are working against us impassively for their own personal, sick satisfactions. It’s devastating for all of us to be under the same gun and still working against each other instead of directing our frustrations and hatred towards the one who are holding the gun in our face.

More and more prisons are being built and more of them are being slammed. From state to state the internal conflicts that arise within these dungeons are what’s giving the Administration the excuse they need to keep us confined to a cell all day, everyday.

I see new faces all the time, most of these new faces that are coming through this disgusting system seem to be younger and younger. This system has no hesitations about locking up kids and throwing them in with the Lions. All true convicts know what this system does to the youngsters, how it turns them out, and all true convicts know that we can’t count on the same people who oppress us to help us.

So it’s on us, as convicts to give these youngsters the proper tools, the proper guidance and education, to help them move forward, cuz these youngsters crave truth like a Vulture craves a corpse, they crave the power of knowledge like a Jackal craves to lick the blood off of left-over bones.

It’s on us to lead these youngsters down the right path, to turn scavengers into hunters and make higher learning and self-education their initial prey. It’s true that there’s nobody more dangerous than a sophisticated thug, but I’m thinking beyond that. I’m talking about instilling dignity and self-esteem, productivity, creativity and intelligence into our younger generations and into one another as well. We must seek ways to rise above these horrible situations, to move forward.

I believe that as prisoners, regardless of what race, we are all oppressed people. To rise above oppression we must first teach ourselves to think on a higher plane. We must first liberate ourselves through knowledge. Knowledge is idle without action and action is baseless without knowledge.

Through my actions and through my efforts I have been able to put into practice what is called “Solidarity”.

It’s always a blessing to open someone’s eyes to something truthful, to something fresh and to something progressive, especially while in these confined situations. It’s always a blessing to be able to offer new insights, new ideas, and to be able to inspire others to want to further their own path or sphere of knowledge.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: some of the most brilliant, intelligent minds can be found right here, behind enemy lines. To all the Comrades, Activists and Organizers on the streets, if you’re not writing to a prisoner, you don’t know what you’re missing. Get involved with a prisoner and share His/Her struggles and burdens, and you will come across some of the most enlightening and truthful conversations and discussions. If you are writing a prisoner, it wouldn’t hurt to send them a book, at least once a month, so that they may seek a liberation through the power of knowledge.

To the Comrades on lockdown, in prisons nationwide and beyond, we must rise above this oppression. We must stride out of the darkness and towards the light. Open your eyes, open your heart and open your soul to truth and to struggle. If you have what it takes to learn then you have what it takes to teach.

I encourage you to make copies of this essay, publish it in your paper, newsletter or zine, mail copies of it to prisoners, especially to prisoners serving time in solitary enslavement. And I encourage prisoners to pass it to other prisoners. Use it as an example to write your own essays, to say what’s on your mind, to speak the truth.

Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to say what was on my mind. I was shackled to my thoughts until I took the time to share them with you.

In Truth and In Struggle,

Coyote Sheff
Ely State Prison, Nevada