Nevada Jurisprudence and Prison Report Vol. 3, No 4 – Fall Issue 2013

We received per email the following:

Nevada Jurisprudence and Prison Report
Vol. 3, No 4     “Veritas in Caritatis”              Fall Issue 2013
THEME: “Audi alterum partem”
Listen to the other side!
“Voice of the Nevada Jurisprudence and Prison Report”

Statement of Purpose:
The NJPR Newsletter reports on current prison conditions, good and bad; more importantly it looks at and evaluates the legal processes and the substantive laws which are designed to keep men in prison: Pre-trial issues, probation and parole policy, sentencing structures, post-conviction law, and most important, the philosophy underlying policy in practice.

The purpose of the NJPR Website is to provide a repository of affidavits, declarations and grievances in Web-Dossiers organized by categories of intuitional behavior. Fundamentally, this is a whistleblowing organization trying to associate with other “transparency” projects at an intrastate, national and global level. We seek to identify patterns which can be utilized by the U.S. Department of Justice.

We invite any resident, and especially judicial officers of the Courts and government Administration to write letters to the NJPR.

Index to this Issue:

Section One: Conditions
1. NNCC Doubles Its Lunch Calorie Intake (Thank God)
2. Pressure letters on “Prison Rape Elimination Act”
3. Kevin Pope Taken to the Hole, or Worse
4. Open Letter to Senator David Parks
Section TWO: Law, Equity and Policy

1.     Politics of Fear and Ignorance, by Anonymous
Section Three: Art, Culture, Education and Religion
1.    Prison Waiting Contest
2.    Job Application Policy Charges
3.    New Second Chance Bill in U.S. Congress
4.    NNCC Drug Experiment as Civil Religion

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Section One: Conditions

1)   NNCC Food Policy Change—to the Better?

In August 2013 the officials basically doubled the calorie intake of the midday lunch meal by offering two sandwiches, instead of one. Since terminating the hot lunch policy two years (or so) ago, the wardens have carried out the master plan of the NDOC czars in giving out only a “sack lunch” at ALL facilities. Prior to this deprivation, the sack-lunch policy was only at the high security prisons. Now it is everywhere, making all prisons equal in terms of food intake policy. Andre Sakharov once coined the term “convergence theory” that proposes a sociological analogy to the phenomena of water seeking the lowest level possible. He noticed that in totalitarian states the idea of the “good” seems to be reversed, and government actors and leaders are bizarrely inclined or predisposed to emulate the agency leaders who are the least humane, charitable or decent.

The repressive food policy of continued downward trajectory seems to have hit bottom and bounced up a notch. Even the quality of the lunch meats served has improved a bit. Thank you.
2)   Pressure Letters on PREA

Federal law required that all state prisons and local jails must have been in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act. One of the inmates informs NJPR that he wrote to the NGO “Just Detention International” and received a packet of information, [Address: 3325 Wilshire Blvd # 340, Los Angeles CA 90010, info@justdetention.org]. The packet of information included the name of the NDOC point person in charge of supervising this compliance. The inmate proactively wrote a letter to the NDOC staff asking for a breakdown on the specific actions taken by NDOC to comply with the federal law.

Suddenly, posters went up all over the grounds at the NNCC facility, announcing the existence of federal anti-rape law. The proactive inmate received a curt one sentence letter from an unknown official in Las Vegas stating a conclusory announcement that NDOC is in compliance with federal law”. The inmate also sent an FOIA request to the U.S. Dept. of Justice asking for Nevada’s compliance reports, and they have not responded within the mandatory 20 day period.
3)   Kevin Pope Disappears

NJPR writer Kevin Pope has disappeared. The rumors are flying. All that was seen was that an S and E (Security and Escort) officer drove up to the back side of Kevin’s unit in a black van, entered into Kevin’s dorm, where he was taking an afternoon nap, and rousted him, cuffed him up and walked him out to the van and drove away. Some rumors have it Kevin was taken to Ely State prison, which is bad news considering Kevin’s heart condition (triple bypass).

Kevin is the most prolific writ writer on the yard, and the most helpful legal mind on the yard, always ready to stop what he was doing to listen and offer his knowledge.

We won’t repeat hear the police-generated rumors about the charges against Kevin, as that would serve to dignify the likely-to-be untrue content.   

Om-namah-shivaya, Kevin—stay in prayer.
4)   Open Letter to Senator Parks of Nevada

Senator David Parks
PO Box 71887
Las Vegas NV 89170-1887
Dear Senator:
Two recent articles in the Prison Legal News (Nov., 2013) have inspired me to share them with you.

The first article highlights the American practice of non-transparency and suppression of press coverage of criminal justice systems, prisons and the aftereffects. Any “news” that appears is bias based and “criss driven”. In Nevada, the court procedural rules are made without benefit of public scrutiny, the prison regulations of NDOC are exempt from normal rulemaking safeguards, and the behaviors of the parole departments are shielded by layers of bureaucratic secrecy. 

Here is a solution idea: the Ombudsman idea which failed in recent legislation. Both New Jersey and Iowa have an Ombudsman office and Vermont has a Prisoner’s Rights Office, 6 Baldwin St., 4th Floor Montpelier VT 05633, www.defgen.state.vt.us. that takes care of the problems of prisoners and press blackout of prisoner conditions, as such operations could be and should be open to public scrutiny of records and rulemaking processes.

The next article is related: the suppression of accurate data given to the public, in this case to the “pre-trial detainee”. The article highlights a study by the federal Government Accountability Office titled “Indigent Defense: DOJ Could Increase Awareness of Eligible Funding”. The judicial processes of the executive branch agencies are obliged by natural fairness to notify applicants and defendants of civil enforcement of all the citizen’s rights and rules of engagement. Why is this notification abandoned in the criminal justice system?  Defendants are deliberately blinded from the completely suppressed information such as court rules, processes, practices, customs and pertinent statutes, and all rights devolving to the detainee under the law. 

The solution is to apply for an Edward J. Byrne Justice Assistance Grant Program to insure the cost of providing the ADKT 411 “Indigent Defense Standards” to all detainees, and pay for costs of supplying all the notification of the courts laws, rules and basic motions and practices. Only this will level playing field of the adversary system.
Section Two: Law and Equity
1)   Politics of Fear and Ignorance, by an Anonymous prisoner of Nevada
Political Agendas at the Expense of Public Safety

The Inconvenient Truth

The spring 2013 Informational Bulletin Newsletter published by Nevada-CURE reported that NRS 179A.270-290, passed in 1997, required the Central Repository for Nevada Records of Criminal History to collect sex offender recidivism data. In 2009, the Central Repository petitioned to have these responsibilities removed through AB 81 apparently because “the agency has neither the staffing nor the technical expertise to address recidivism of sex offenders.” Unfortunately, AB 81 passed.

Interestingly, the State has nearly unlimited resources and manpower to pass sex offender laws and hand out extensive and multiple criminal sentences like free candy in light of an overcrowded penal system and substantial budget constraints. It’s amazing what they can accomplish when they put their minds to it. The Prosecutor’s office does not seem to be begging the Legislature to be relieved of their responsibilities to any degree like the Central Repository did.

It appears the rationale behind relieving the Central Repository from collecting sex offender recidivism data may have been a politically motivated decision made intentionally at the expense of public safety. The agency could have very easily been provided the resources to achieve their objectives.

Any official state-sponsored study on Nevada’s sex offender recidivism could call into question the rational of current sex offender laws and the political agendas of those responsible for passing and/or sponsoring them. Such studies could also reveal inconvenient truths about sex offender recidivism in Nevada that could take the steam out of election year. How can a politician or a judicial candidate compete for office, pass, or adjudicate politically popular laws based on unverified anecdotal assumptions, popular myths, or traditionally perceived conceptions about sex offenders when the truth about such offenders stands as an inconvenient obstacle to the promotion of fear and ignorance needed to persuade naive constituents for their vote and continued support?

Jumping from one unverified myth to another every election year only promotes fear and ignorance at an enormous financial expense while only benefiting a political agenda at the expense of public safety.

Since at least 1959, the United States Supreme Court has observed that education is a deterrent to crime. See Kingsly International Pictures Corp. v. Regeats of Univ. of N.Y., 360 U.S. 684, 689 (1959). Keeping the public uneducated or otherwise ignorant about sex offender recidivism by relieving the Central Repository from collecting data on the subject appears a substantial and affirmative step by our Legislature to promote crime. In other words, a political agenda has taken priority over public safety. Fear and ignorance about Nevada sex offenders remain the status quo.

The Political Agenda at Work
The low recidivism rate of convicted sex offenders oddly remains a secret in today’s society.  In McKune v. Lile, 536 U.S. 24, 33 (2002), the United States Supreme Court cites to the DOJ’s 1997 report on Sex Offenses and Offenders for the finding that all sex offenders have a “high risk of recidivism.” Yet this report finds the recidivism rate of released sex offenders for new crimes as 7.7%, and that rate is the second lowest rate of recidivism of all released offenders in the study. Also cited by the High Court for this apparent “high rate of recidivism” is another 1997 DOJ report on Recidivism of Prisoners Released in 1983. Interestingly, after making an inquiry to the DOJ, no such report was released in 1997.

In Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. 84, 103 (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court zealously upheld a sex offender registration and notification law by ratifying the Legislature’s findings that all sex offenders, as a class, have a high rate of recidivism without first independently verifying those facts.

Without those unverified legislative findings, it would appear that the sex offender registration and notification laws would have been decreed unconstitutional. That would have called into question the constitutionality of all sex offender registration and notification laws across the country. The entire opinion of Smith v. Doe relied substantially on the unverified or otherwise affirmative misrepresentations about sex offender recidivism.

When a constitutional right is at stake, the usual judicial deference to legislative findings gives way to an exercise of independent judgment of the facts to ascertain whether the legislative body has drawn reasonable inferences based on substantial evidence. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. v. FCC, 512 U.S.  622, 666 (1994). Quoting from non-existent DOJ reports and making affirmative misrepresentations of fact from existing reports is not an exercise of independent judgment based on substantial evidence. It appears that a political agenda encouraged a desired result rather than a just and accurate one.

Legislatures and courts around the country are now making serious decisions about laws based on the U.S. Supreme Court’s affirmative misrepresentations about sex offender recidivism. Why must the truth be a pliable commodity in this country and be distorted to fit political agendas? The politics of fear and ignorance remain the order of the day.

Causes and Effects of Sexual Abuse

There are “correlations between childhood sexual abuse and later problems such as substance abuse, dangerous sexual behaviors or dysfunction, inability to relate to others on an interpersonal level, and psychiatric illness.” Kennedy v. Louisiana, 171 L.Ed.2d 525, 568-69 (2008)(Alito, J., dissenting)(quoting authoritive reports on child sexual abuse). “Victims of child rape are nearly 5 times more likely than nonvictims to be arrested for sex crimes and nearly 30 times more likely to be arrested for prostitution.” Id.

There are legions of medical and scientific studies that empirically demonstrate that sexually abused children have a high disposition to commit sexually based crimes in the future. It is not uncommon for a convicted sex offender to have a history of being sexually abused as a child.

Without thinking twice, many in our society would find it absurd for a convicted sex offender to babysit a child or run a day care center. Would you take your chances with an adult who was a victim of childhood sexual abuse? They do not register and background checks will not likely provide a clue to their potential to commit a sexual offense. They are not subject to any degree of oversight. The heightened potential of a victim committing a sexual offense is an inconvenient fact that cannot be lightly disregarded if public safety, victimization, and crime prevention are to be taken seriously.

How many politicians expect to get your vote or support if they suggest or propose victims register to prevent future sexual offenses or to otherwise promote public safety? If registration apparently works so well for convicted sex offenders, then why not for victims if public safety is of central concern? Since registration is not a form of punishment according to a substantial weight of judicial authority, then there should be no problem. Right?

A Solution

Unlike convicted sex offenders, victims of sexual abuse are never required to register despite their heightened potential to commit a sexual offense. If there is a genuine concern for public safety and future sexual offenses behind registration and notification laws as authoritatively held by the U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Doe, then it would be perfectly rational to require victims to register. To hold otherwise would compromise public safety and promote future sexual offenses followed by more victims. Why wait for a victim to commit a sexual offense and create new victims before requiring them to register? That’s illogical and only promotes a continuing offense cycle of new victims followed by future potential offenders. That kind of cycle needs to be stopped!

Any concerns for privacy over registration and notification requirements are substantially outweighed by the government’s legitimate objective of public safety. I have yet to see any court relieve registration requirements for privacy concerns.

Victims should be relieved that registration and notification requirements do not promote the goals of punishment and are purely regulatory pursuant to Smith v. Doe, 538 U.S. at 105-06. Furthermore, a conviction is not required to impose a civil regulatory law. Id. At 113 (Stevens, J., dissenting in part and concurring in part)(observing that a conviction is not a necessary predicate for civil commitment).

It is true that not all victims commit sexual offenses in the future. The same is also true with convicted sex offenders. In any case, registration and notification requirements are imposed on all sex offenders regardless of their individual risk to reoffend. Doe, 538 U.S. at 104. There is no reason why this same requirement cannot be imposed on all victims of childhood sexual abuse since public safety is of central concern.

If victims have a high potential to commit sexual offenses based of empirically accurate and verified research but are not required to register, then the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution requires convicted sex offenders be treated the same. If not, then the public safety rational that is at the very basis of registration and notification laws are truly pretextual to an agenda towards using legislative and judicial agendas to punish convicted sex offenders; a rational that plainly cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny on several fronts. Given the pervasive attitudes toward convicted sex offenders, it would be naive to assume otherwise.

If our government chooses not to collect data on sexual offenses but yet continues to legislate and make fundamental decisions about sexually based crimes and laws, then they are willfully navigating in the dark. They have chosen to disregard your safety at the expense of their political agenda of fear and ignorance. The citizens and residents of this State should be outraged!

Ron S.
A Nevada prisoner

Section Three: Art, Culture, Education and Religion
1)   Prison Writing Contest Info
Send an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) for submission guidelines:

Vidahlia Press and Publishing House
800 Town and Country Blvd.
City Center, Ste. 300
Houston TX 77024

Submission Deadline is February 1, 2014

Another possible publication outlet is:

Criminal Justice Journalists
c/o Dept. of Criminology
University of Pennsylvania
McNeil Building Ste. 483
3718 Locust Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6286
2)   Job Application Policy Changes

Citizens United for Rehabilitation of Errants (C.U.R.E.) reports in their recent newsletter report two recent positive policy changes for prisoners leaving prison.

First, in April of 2012, the United States has prohibited private corporate policy which acts as a “blanket denial of employment” to ex- felons. This mandate was issued by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C.) says the CURE people. For information:

EEOC Library/Reading Room
131 M Street NE
Washington DC 20507

Second, on October 30, 2013, Target Corporation modified its job application forms to remove the criminal history questions. NJPR will investigate into the creation of national and local employers who have followed suit, and demand a policy statement from Nevada officials.
3)   New Second Chance Bill in U.S. Congress
In April of 2008, President Bush signed the Second Chance Act authorizing federal grants to state punishment authorities “to improve outcomes for returning to society” after incarceration. The response of our Glorius Leader in Nevada was to cut out college programs at NNCC, stop the horticulture programs, put a stop to Alcoholics Anonymous, shut down law libraries, shut down regular libraries in the units, shut down the veterans of Vietnam Association activities and shut down the public-speaking training club of Toastmasters International. The Congress of the United States, after five years, has introduced S. 1690 and HR 3465 to continue funding the practices and policies that help prisoners.
     There is a word that means “deriving pleasure from cruelty”. Psychobabblers call it sadism, the religious tradition calls it diabolical. To deny a man the benefit of enjoying a legal right offered by the statutes of the United States is most certainly a cruelty. One wonders at the source of the Glorus Leader’s cruelty, sadism or Satanism?
4)   NNCC Drug Experiment as Human Sacrifice of the Civil Religion: An Interview

An article in Nevada CURE asked for responses to the question “Is Forced Medication an NDOC Problem?” Recently, several participants of the “psych ward”, Unit 6, were kicked out, so NJPR asked them some questions, after they read the CURE article.

NJPR: So, is forced meds a problem?
Griz: Yeah, it is a problem.
NJPR: How do they “force” you to take meds?
Griz: They take you to the hole in 7B.
NJPR: OK, they cuff you up and take you to the hole—how do they actually force the meds on you?
Griz: They come and “extract” you, hit you with shields, taze you, thank they force a shot of Haldol into your ass.
NJPR: Who is “they”?
Griz: The SERT team. [ed., Special Emergency Response Team]
NJPR: Tell me about he federal experimental drug program you mentioned. How do you know its funded federally?
Griz: State ain’t got no money. They cut our food back. How else can staff bring in fancy new flat screen TV’s and all these special training videos?
NJPR: So you’re never seen any actual documents?
Griz: Well, not really. Just the waiver forms.
NJPR: Do they tell you what drugs they are giving you?
Griz: yeah, they do. But they don’t tell you what the side effects are. We ask them to tell us, but they won’t answer us. They say they are too busy to talk about things.
NJPR: Why were you kicked out?
Griz: A misunderstanding I was having with another inmate—we were not physically fighting. We just went down to his cell to talk things out, and this guy’s cellmate misinformed staff about it. She blew it out of proportion.
NJPR: Who is she?
Griz: *****, the psych that has been there the last twenty years.

There is clear need for Freedom of Information Act demands made, but where does one start? Is it the Food and Drug Administration or the Department of Justice? Would the prison officials respond to inquiry?

HEIL HITLER, HEIL NDOC!

Legislative Leaders welcome End to Hunger Strike; Reaffirm Commitment to Public Hearings

September 05, 2013 
Sacramento – Today Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley), Chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee, and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, welcomed the end to the California prison inmate hunger strike after 60 days.
 “I am relieved and gratified that the hunger strike has ended without further sacrifice or risk of human life,” Senator Hancock stated.  “”The issues raised by the hunger strike are real – concerns about the use and conditions of solitary confinement in California’s prisons – and will not be ignored.”
“I’m happy that no one had to die in order to bring attention to these conditions,” Ammiano said. “The prisoners’ decision to take meals should be a relief to CDCR and the Brown administration, as well as to those who support the strikers.”
The end to the hunger strike comes five days after Hancock and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, announced that they will hold joint public hearings on the conditions in California prisons that have led to the inmate hunger strike. The two legislators asked the inmates to end to the hunger strike so that energy and attention can be focused on the issues that have been raised.
According to Senator Hancock, “The inmates participating in the hunger strike have succeeded in bringing these issues to the center of public awareness and debate, Legislators now recognize the seriousness and urgency of these concerns and we will move forward to address them..”
“I’m especially gratified if the call for hearings helped bring this about,” Ammiano said. “However, our real work begins now, as we will soon start preparing for hearings that I hope can bring an end to the disgraceful conditions that triggered the hunger strike.”
The first hearing is expected to take place in October and will focus on two key issues raised by the hunger strike:
1.  The conditions of confinement in California’s maximum security prisons.
On April 9, 2013, a U. S. District Judge ruled in a class action law suit that inmates being held in solitary confinement, sometimes for decades, had adequately demonstrated that the State of California may be denying them protection from cruel and unusual punishment and granted the plaintiffs the right to a trial.
2.  The effect of long-term solitary confinement as a prison management strategy, and a human rights issue.
Senator Hancock stated, “California continues to be an outlier in its use of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement has been recognized internationally and by other states to be an extreme form of punishment that leads to mental illness if used for prolonged periods of time. Since many of these inmates will eventually have served their sentences and will be released, it is in all our best interest to offer hope of rehabilitation while they are incarcerated – not further deterioration.”
“We know these prisoners have committed crimes,” Ammiano said, “but I have to repeat: It does not justify the way the state is treating them in the name of all Californians. We want California to be a leader in effective and enlightened corrections and true rehabilitation.”
The two legislators cited a report by Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, “Even if solitary confinement is applied for short periods of time, it often causes mental and physical suffering or humiliation, amounting to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and if the resulting pain or sufferings are severe, solitary confinement even amounts to torture.”
They also referred to the 2006 report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons, a bipartisan national task force. The report found that between 1995 and 2000, the use of solitary confinement in the United States had increased by 40 percent, far outpacing the 28 percent growth rate of the overall prison population.  The Commission concluded that solitary confinement is counterproductive to public safety, and costs twice as much as imprisonment in the general population. The Commission recommended ending long-term isolation of inmates. 

Las Vegas Sun: Prison News in a few words, circumventing the Real Issues

On Dec. 17th 2012 this article was published by the Las Vegas Sun about a study researching the question if there are not enough guards in Nevada’s prisons:

http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/dec/17/too-few-prison-guards-nevada-study-find-out/

This article is a mish-mash of news about Nevada’s prisons with just a few words, and without much research, which omits Real Issues.

For instance, towards the end of the LV Sun article, this sentence can be read:

On another subject, state Health Officer Stacy Green told the board that all the medical violations in the prison system have been corrected. The prisons are in “complete compliance” with the medical standards, she said.

Which medical standards? Those of the UN? Is this a response to the ACLU of Nevada’s Report of 2011?How can this be? Nevada Cure has expressed to its members that they still receive complaints by prisoners of the lack of medical care on a daily basis. See for instance documents 28, 29, 30 and 30a here. And documents 55, 57-58, 59-59A here. And document 60, 61 here. These are documents belonging to Nevada Cure’s ongoing project documenting abuses inside the Nevada Department of Corrections’ prisons.

Does this mean that the culture institutionalized inside Nevada’s prisons of disrespect and cruelty towards incarcerated people, of some dominant, authoritarian, unreasonable tyrant-wardens and unprofessional, revenge/retaliation-seeking staff is now over? It is simply not true!

Why are Real Issues like Solitary Confinement (two prisons are nearly completely on permanent lockdown (meaning being celled up 23/7) with no change in sight: HDSP and Ely State Prison, and other prisons like NNCC may follow), staff-to-prisoner assaults, unhealthy food, lack of programs, lack of care for mentally ill prisoners, to name but a few ills inside the prison system, not mentioned in more detail and more regularly? Why are prison deaths never investigated by journalists?

More money MUST be invested if we want to keep incarcerating people for such long times as Life Without Parole, or sentences of 20+ years. Why? Because people voted to have representatives who WANT this! The public PAYS TAX to have these long sentences inflicted on people who go to prison, whether they are guilty or not. And prisoners are still human beings! Therefore we have to review how they are being treated.

You do not have to like prisoners to treat them humanely just like any other person in a state-run or privately run institution. Because most people in prisons will one day return, and will not be reformed, if we go on like this. And crime is not being solved by building or expanding prisons.

We need a system based on prevention and reform, not revenge.

State sued over prison conditions

From: Illinois Times, June 28 2012
By Bruce Rushton

Conditions at Vienna Correctional Center are something out of a Dickens novel, judging by a stomach-churning lawsuit filed earlier this month by inmates who say they live with filth, vermin and a paucity of bathrooms.

A lawyer for inmates says that prisoners at Vienna and Vandalia Correctional Center, which could be the next legal target, are living in poorer conditions than inmates in California, which has been ordered to reduce overcrowding by a federal judge.

“We are worse than California,” says Alan Mills, legal director for the Uptown People’s Law Center in Chicago, which sued the state in federal court on June 13. “California is putting people in gymnasiums. But, to my knowledge, they are not putting people into basements or storage rooms.”

In addition to suing the state over conditions at Vienna Correctional Center, the Uptown People’s Law Center is considering a lawsuit over conditions at Vandalia Correctional Center, where minimum security inmates are held, Mills said. If the state doesn’t settle, lawsuits could take years to resolve, he said.

It is, Mills said, a matter of math. The inmate population has increased by 10 percent during the past two years while the state prison budget has decreased by 15 percent, he said. There is some hope in recently passed legislation that reinstitutes an early-release program for inmates who behave themselves, Mills said.

The legislature also appropriated $26 million to keep the Tamms supermax prison open. Gov. Pat Quinn says that he will close it nonetheless, and if the money is spent to expand a minimum security work camp next to the supermax, intolerable conditions might improve, Mills said.

Stacey Solano, Illinois Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said the department doesn’t comment on pending lawsuits, but health, safety and security of inmates and staff is the department’s top priority. She confirmed that Tamms will be closed, but declined to say how the department might spend money appropriated to keep the supermax open.
In the meantime, inmates are living in squalor, according to the class-action lawsuit filed on June 13 in federal court.

Nearly 1,900 prisoners are living in Vienna Correctional Center, which was built to hold 925 inmates, according to the lawsuit. While state law requires each inmate to have at least 50 square feet in cells or dormitories, inmates at Vienna have 33 square feet or less, the plaintiffs say. Inmates get three hours or less of exercise time each week, and much of their time is spent on bunks crammed 18 inches apart, so close that a prisoner can reach out and touch the person sleeping next to them.

Rather than fix broken windows, the state has boarded them up, depriving inmates of natural light and fresh air. Mice, rats, millipedes, cockroaches and other vermin run free, and food contains rodent feces and mold, according to the plaintiffs.

“Prisoners find cockroaches in their coffee cups, drinking glasses and toothbrushes and feel cockroaches crawl across them while they lie in their bunks,” the plaintiffs say. “The men often have to physically sweep cockroaches off of their mattresses and remove cockroach feces from their pillows and clothing.”

A converted administration building that is home to 600 inmates has seven toilets, two urinals, seven sinks and seven showers.

“To make matters worse, some of these toilets and sinks often do not function or drain properly due to leaking or clogged pipes,” the plaintiffs say. “Rust-colored water comes out of these few sinks, which the prisoners use to brush their teeth, wash their faces and ‘clean’ their dishes. Broken toilets are left filled with feces, sometimes for weeks.”

Mold is rampant.

“It grows along the walls and ceilings, in the light fixtures, around the sinks and drinking fountains, in the showers and behind the toilets,” the plaintiffs say. “The mold on the ceiling and in the showers sometimes grows so thick that it breaks off and falls on the prisoners while they are sleeping in their bunks or showering.”

Just five guards watch over the 600 inmates who live in the converted administration building.

“Because there are so many prisoners and so few officers, the officers are frequently unaware of the fights that occur in the dormitories and when the officers are aware, they often let the inmates fight it out, intervening only after the fight is finished in order to issue disciplinary citations,” plaintiffs say.

The conditions described in the lawsuit are confirmed in a report by the John Howard Association, a Chicago-based prison reform group that visited the prison last fall. The visitors smelled sewage and found inmates dodging rust-colored water that dripped from bathroom ceilings. Prisoners said they were given just five minutes to eat meals. Hundreds of inmates with nothing to do simply paced or huddled around a small television.

“A Vienna staff member seemed to recognize the stunned look on our faces,” the report’s author wrote. “‘This is a nightmare,’ he said quietly to one of JHA’s staff. ‘This should not be.’”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.

Read the Monitoring Visit by John Howard Association of Illinois below:

http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/file-123-.pdf

Read the Vienna Complaint Court Document below:

http://www.illinoistimes.com/Springfield/file-124-.pdf

A Wave of Prisoner Resistance Sweeps the South

“We’re tired of being treated like animals.”

By Jen Waller andThomas Hintze
Waging Nonviolence, via: http://www.indypendent.org/2012/06/01/wave-prisoner-resistance-sweeps-south
Thanks to: The Real Cost of Prisons

June 1, 2012

Last week, prisoners in two different facilities in the United States resisted inhumane conditions — one through an uprising that the mainstream media dubbed a “riot,” and the other through a hunger strike. The tactics employed by the two groups differ, but the messages are clearly linked: Prisoners are protesting their conditions and are willing to put their lives on the line to fight for better treatment.

On May 20, inmates took control of the Adams County Correctional Facility in Mississippi for over eight hours. One inmate managed to access a cell phone during the uprising and called WLBT TV in Jackson, proving his presence in the prison by sending pictures. He gave the station the following statement: “They beat us; we’re just [paying] them back. We just need better treatment and services. We need medical attention. We just want some respect. They call us wetbacks” — referring to a racist slur used against undocumented immigrants.

The prison is privately owned by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which manages over 60 facilities and touts a capacity of 90,000 beds. The prison in Adams County is populated by immigrants from over 70 countries awaiting deportation and is part of a larger war on undocumented immigrants in the United States. 2011 was a record year for deportations: 396,000 people were removed from the country, and more than half of those people were convicted of crimes and held at private immigration detention facilities like the one in Adams County.

During the uprising, one guard was killed, and several guards and inmates were injured. Over two dozen guards were reportedly held hostage. The prisoners were subdued by SWAT teams, which dropped pepper spray grenades and tear gas bombs into the facility. Before it was quashed, more than 600 of about 2,500 total inmates were reportedly involved in the takeover.

The mainstream media, much like the prison officials themselves, have sought to silence the grievances that motivated the uprising. Nearly every headline has emphasized images of violence, tumult, disorder. Many news outlets claimed that a gang fight started the revolt, yet they fail to explain how a clash between rival gangs could result in an apparently unified uprising with clear demands.

The nature of the uprising and the death of a prison guard in the midst of it have given the media a pretext to ignore the massive violence and brutality that prisoners suffer across the country every single day. The incident is also symptomatic of the fact that the privatization of prisons like the one in Adams County means a lack of oversight and responsibility, which results in inhumane conditions for inmates. The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance has received numerous complaints about the conditions of this CCA facilitity and many others, with reports of beatings, overcrowding, substandard food and lack of proper medical care, among other grievances. These are precisely the kinds of problems that were cited by those who took matters into their own hands in Mississippi by mounting an occupation.

Meanwhile, 45 prisoners at Red Onion State Prison in Wise County, Virginia were plotting another kind of resistance: a hunger strike, which they launched on May 22. With the help of a network of prisoner-support activists in the area, the hunger strikers released 10 demands and a press advisory. Among these demands were such basics as fully-cooked food and access to fresh fruit and vegetables, access to complaint and grievance forms, an end to torture in the form of indefinite segregation, and adequate medical care. Five hundred of the 1,700 inmates at Red Onion — Virginia’s only “supermax” prison — spend 23 hours a day in isolation. Inmates at Red Onion have also reported being beaten by guards and bitten by dogs.

Prisoner hunger strikes like this have been growing in frequency. Just in the past year, hunger strikes have happened at the Ohio State Penitentiary, the Corcoran State Prison, Pelican Bay State Prison, Ironwood State Prison, Kern Valley State Prison and more. Prisoners around the world are also choosing to resist by hunger striking, most notably the 2,500-strong Palestinian prisoner hunger strike that went on for weeks and was ultimately hailed as a victory. As we write, there are prisoners fasting in resistance in Dubai, Morocco, Egypt and, earlier this week, a 110-day hunger strike ended in Bahrain.

On Tuesday, a flurry of articles, including one in The Washington Post, ran with headlines claiming that the hunger strike at Red Onion prison had ended. In order for the state to officially recognize a hunger strike, inmates must reject their meals for nine consecutive days, which Virginia Department of Corrections Director Harold Clarke said they had not. In response to the news, activists with the group Solidarity with Virginia Prison Hunger Strikers issued a response challenging the validity of the DOC’s statements:

There has been a history of organizing at this prison to protest the inhumane conditions since the opening of the prison. Because it was the prisoners themselves who put their bodies on the line to call attention to injustices at Red Onion, it should be the prisoners to whom we listen over the press releases of the Virginia Department of Correction. Given that the VA DOC both failed to acknowledge the hunger strike at the onset and engaged in sending out misinformation, their version of events is suspect.

At Red Onion, one of the hunger strikers’ representatives denounced the inhumanity of the prison:

We’re tired of being treated like animals. There are only two classes at this prison: the oppressor and the oppressed. We, the oppressed, despite divisions of sexual preference, gang affiliation, race and religion, are coming together. We are rival gang members but now are united as revolutionaries.

Those affirmative words echo a rich and varying legacy of prisoner resistance that is all but forgotten in the American consciousness. Perhaps the most famous prison uprising in U.S. history was the Attica rebellion of 1971, when prisoners took control of the facility in upstate New York for five days before Governor Nelson Rockefeller approved a military siege. Thirty-one prisoners were killed, and nine guards died in the hail of bullets used to quash the occupation. Yet, over the course of those five days, the prisoners at Attica built a sense of community, about which one black prisoner later said, “I never thought whites could really get it on … But I can’t tell you what the yard was like, I actually cried it was so close, everyone so together.”

As the speaker from Attica and the representative at Red Onion State Prison both allude to, it is when divides of race, identity, and affiliation start to break down that prisoners are empowered to seek better conditions and more rights. These struggles also depend on those on the outside who show solidarity and help to spread awareness of the prisoners’ grievances. Supporters of the Red Onion hunger strike are organizing through their website and an online petition. The San Francisco Bay View has posted a further list of ways people can support the Red Onion revolutionaries. Inmates are putting their lives in danger to fight for meaningful change in a brutal system, but without people outside the prisons echoing them, their cries can continue being silenced and ignored.
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http://virginiaprisonstrike.blogspot.com/

This article was originally published by Waging Nonviolence.

http://www.indypendent.org/2012/06/01/wave-prisoner-resistance-sweeps-south

A Letter from Steven Woods on Texas Death Row

Steven Woods is scheduled for execution today, September 13, 2011.
Please call the office of Governor Rick Perry at (001)(512) 463-2000 to ask for clemency
.
Here is more about Steven Woods.

A Letter from Steven Woods on Texas Death Row
This was posted in 2004 on Prisontalk and it is still as much needed today:

Hello.
My name is Steven Woods, and I am currently an inmate awaiting lethal injection in the Alan B. Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas.

I am writing this as a plea for help, for myself and the 400 plus inmates living on death row. I am writing this to ask that you get involved, to help make our conditions more liveable and humane. To help us gain a little comfort as we sit out what little remains of our lives.

I am aware that there are numerous people and organizations world-wide that expend an immense amount of energy trying to abolish the death penalty. While I admire and respect their efforts, I am also aware that there are few who stop and look at how we are forced to live. So much effort is put on saving our lives, that this is often overlooked.

This is no fault of the people, it is the fault of myself and all the 400 plus inmates who share my fate. We just lie down and accept the way we are treated. If were not willing to stand up for ourselves, why should anyone else?

It is time for this to change.

Death row, in Texas, is housed in a maximum security super segregation facility. A facility designed to hold prisoners indefinitely in a solitary confinement environment. We are locked down for 23 hours a day, in a single man 6×9 foot steel and concrete cell. We are afforded extremely limited privileges, and only one hour a day to get out of our cells for recreation. Every time we leave our cells we are strip searched, placed in hand restraints and walked by 2 guards holding each arm.
being walked.

If you were to ask the TDCJ administration why it is set up like this, they would tell you that we are security risks. This is absurd. Granted, it is true that we were convicted of some very heinous crimes, I would like to point out that there are TWO penalties for capital murder; death, or li fe in prison. Those who are convicted and are afforded a life sentence (my co-defendant, for example) are in most cases convicted of the exact crimes we were. They live out their lives in general population as a reward for their testimony against us, the fact that they plead guilty, or because the jury decided to show compassion (as in the case of the
terrorist sniper Lee Malvo).

Let me ask you this. Who is more likely to be a danger to others; an inmate condemned to die, who has a chance to save his life if he can prove that he is not a danger to society, or the prisoner who will serve out a life sentence, and has nothing to lose?

The majority of people who are sent to a TDCJ prison, those who did not receive the death penalty and behave themselves, are placed into the general population unit. They have a lot more freedom than we do. They receive hot meals at a steam table, not in a cell. They get to go to church, and parti cipate in educational programs. They are allowed to interact with other prisoners, and can walk around freely, to the dayrooms and recreation yards, and around the section they live on. They are
allowed to receive contact visits, to touch and hold their family and
loved ones. These convicts consist of thieves, violent offenders, rapists,
capital murderers and child molesters. These inmates often act violently
toward each other and the guards, and sometimes try (and succeed) to escape. But, of course, they are not security risks. Not according to TDCJ.

We, on death row, are deprived of so many of the things that make a human being stable, and sane. The TDCJ officers dont care about us, dont like us, and act against us whenever and however they can. They are constantly degrading us calling us names, trying to take what little dignity that remains. They often deny us our sleep, food, shower, and recreation. They even get violent and strike at us when they think they can get away with it. They write us disciplinary cases for petty things, or sometimes for something they made up. They even ignore us when we need medical attention. Then they laugh and joke about it. After all, we are less than
human, and it is their god given right to oppress us.

When it comes to the meals on death row, policy dictates 3 warm meals a day, served in our cells, of the same quality and quantity that the guards receive. We are allotted 2400 calories a day, at least in theory. In reality, the food is served cold, more often than not, and on broken and dirty food trays. The guards who serve the meals dont wear gloves or even wash their hands. Usually, the food is not even fully cooked, and we are never given as much as we are supposed to have. This may seem trivial, but to us it is very important to remain healthy.

The one hour a day that we are allowed to leave our cells for recreation is sp ent in the dayroom, or outside. The dayroom is a cage 18×24 feet. We mostly spend this time just walking around in circles, because we are not allowed to take anything out of our cell. If we do, we get written up for trafficking and trading. Outside, the only differences are that it is a concrete room with iron bars for a roof.

We are not allowed any contact with the other inmates, except the conversations we can have with those in cells close to us by shouting through the walls. We do not get any arts & craft programs, no television, and no work programs. The only things we have to break the monotony of solitary confinement are a radio, books we receive from the outside world, colored pencils, and cheap water colors. We are denied the basic human contact that is essential to keeping a healthy state of mind. But, legally, this is not cruel and unusual punishment.

Visitation is one of our bigger problems. We get 2 hours a week, or certain extended special vis its which are two 4hour visits, if the person visits from over 300 miles, out of state or overseas. Only those on our visitation list may visit, and they have to be approved by TDCJ. We are only allowed 10 people on that list, and we can only change it every 6 months. This means, in average, we will be able to change it or add people 10 times, as the average life expectancy on death row is 5 years. These visits are the most cruel, inhumane punishment. Through a solid, thick sheet of glass, we can see our loved ones. To talk to them, we have to use telephones that distort their voices. Most of us will die without ever being able to
touch, hug, hold our families and friends. Without ever being able to hear the true sound of their voices.

Under the Death Row Plan, as outlined in the Supreme Court case Ruiz vs. Estelle, we were supposed to be allowed more privileges- namely a work program, group/ extended recreation, televisions, and in-cell arts and cra ft programs. Unfortunately, these privileges have been suspended indefinitely, due to an escape attempt (which failed- and when investigated was determined to be the fault of the officers due to negligence) over 5 years ago. 5 years ago, we did have these privileges (except contact visits). So what happened, and why cant we have them back?

TDCJ is punishing all of us for the mistake made by 7 inmates and the officers that neglected their duty. It is not our fault they don’t train their guards properly.

We cannot change anything from the inside, by ourselves. We can only stand up for ourselves and not accept the way we are treated. I am taking this first step in writing to you, and by protesting our conditions by not cooperating with TDCJ officers and officials. We are asking for your support, to put forth as much or as little effort as you can. We need you to fight with us, by calling and writing the government and the administration and telling them that you will not accept the way death row is being run. To protest, if you can, or just spread the word of how we
are treated and encouraging others to get involved.

It is going to be a long hard road we walk down. It will require an extreme amount of energy. It is our hope that you are willing to walk it with us.

To protest our conditions, please phone or write to the following people and tell them you will not stand for the current situation. We would appreciate your help.

1) Rep. Terri Hodge, P. O. Box 13084 Austin, Texas 78711.

2) A letter to Chairman and Members of the Texas Board of Criminal
Justice, P. O. Box 13084, Austin, Texas 78711.

3) A letter to Warden Chuck Biscoe, Polunsky Unit, 3872 FM 350 S.,
Livingston, TX 77351.

If you’d like to get involved and like more, in-depth information, have comments, questions, advice or encouraging words, feel free to write to:

Steven Woods # 999427
TDCJ Polunsky Unit
12002 SFM 350
Livingston, Texas 77351
USA

Press Conference: Pelican Bay Prisoners Go On Hunger Strike to Protest Grave Conditions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—June 29, 2011
Pelican Bay Prisoners Go On Hunger Strike to Protest Grave Conditions
Lawyers, Advocates, Organizations Hold Press Conference, Voice Prisoner Demands

Press Contact: Isaac Ontiveros
Communications Director, Critical Resistance
Office: 510 444 0484
Cell: 510 517 6612

What: Press Conference
When: Thursday, June 30, 2011, 11:00am

Where: Elihu M. Harris State of California Office Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland, CA

Oakland—Prisoners at the notorious Pelican Bay State Prison in Crescent City, CA will initiate an indefinite hunger strike on July 1st, 2011 to protest condition in the prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU). Lawyers and advocates who have been in contact with the prisoners will hold a press conference Thusday June 30th at the Oakland Federal Building, at 11am to rally support for the strike and put pressure on the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to respond to the prisoners’ demands.

Prisoners have delivered their demands to Pelican Bay warden Greg Lewis, the CDCR, and to Governor Jerry Brown. Their demands include an end to long-term solitary confinement, collective punishment, and forced interrogation on gang affiliation. The prisoners have also stated that they are willing to give up their lives unless their demands are met.

“The prisoners inside the SHU at Pelican Bay know the risk that they are taking going on hunger strike,” says Manuel LaFontaine, of All of Us or None, an organization that supports former prisoners and part of a Bay Area-based Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity coalition supporting Pelican Bay’s prisoners. La Fontaine continues, “The CDCR must recognize that the SHU produces conditions of grave violence, such that people lose their lives in there all the time.” U.S. and international human rights organizations have condemned Security Housing Units as having cruel, inhumane, and torturous conditions.

SHU prisoners are kept in windowless, 6 by 10 foot cells, 23½ hours a day, for years at a time. The CDCR operates four Security Housing Units in its system at Corcoran,California Correctional Institution, Valley State Prison for Women as well as Pelican Bay.

Recent work and hunger strikes in Georgia and Ohio prisons were successful in both winning some concessions and alerting the public to the conditions inside US prisons. “People who are in prison are already being punished. They are still human beings and should not have to lose their civil and human rights” says Karen Shain, a lawyer with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children.

Pelican Bay’s hunger strike begins amidst the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling condemning California’s prison overcrowding and order the reduction of its population by at least 33,000 people. At the center of the overcrowding ruling were dozens of prisoner deaths a year due to the lack of basic medical and other healthcare. Thursday’s Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity press conference will touch off several events happening in cities across North America in the coming weeks.

Legal workers, advocates, and experts on the California prison system will be available for comment and interviews.
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