Received via email from JusticeforMajorTillery.org on March 16, 2018:
In December 2017, Major Tillery, sixty-seven years old and imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole in Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Frackville made a proposal to Superintendent Kathy Brittain for remedial policies and to stop the disrespectful and abusive treatment of the seniors.
“On behalf of all the Elderly Members of the General Population” Major Tillery asked for “humanistic consideration for health reasons” to implement some commonsensical, little or no cost changes: housing unit adjustments for the elderly; modifying shower times; providing additional blankets and cold-weather clothing items like gloves and long-johns; virtual visitation with even older parents. He also suggested a pilot program that combined seniors mentoring younger prisoners while getting their help in escorting the elderly in the prison. This program would “bridge the gap between the elderly and youth, create meaningful interaction—now and in the future with family and friends—and educate about diversity of true ethnic cultural differences.”
Pennsylvania has the second highest percentage of elderly prisoners in the U.S., related to the fact that it is one of six states that have prison sentences of life without the possibility of parole. In 1980 there were 370 elderly people in PA’s state prisons, as of 2014 there were 8000, which was 16% of PA prisoners over the age of 55. As of January 1, 2018, the DOC reported 10,442 inmates over the age of 50. The consequences of lack of adequate health care for any and all prisoners is exacerbated when it comes to elderly prisoners; years of prison life, including the food and quality of the water. The leading causes of death in the state’s prisons are heart disease, cancer, and liver disease. Studies establish that the elderly prison population is at higher risk for self-harm, suicide and victimization by staff and other prisoners.
On January 3, 2018, Major Tillery re-submitted his proposals to Sup. Brittain, the Office of Legal Counsel to the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Deputy Secty for the Eastern Region stating the denial of accommodations for elderly prisoners is a violation of the American Disabilities Act as applied to the Elderly. He said:
“It is cruel and unusual punishment for the elderly to be abused and mistreated by correctional staff, our primary caretakers…. Medical and elderly care is part of reasonable care, custody and control [by the DOC] under color of law.”
The prison response is a once-a-week activities program and to limit participation to the twenty-two prisoners at SCI Frackville who are over 65. This doesn’t even comply with the DOC recognition that in the prison system, 50 is considered elderly.
With the support of other elderly prisoners, Major Tillery on February 16, 2018 gave notice to the Office of Legal Counsel for the PA. Department of Corrections (DOC) and Sup. Brittain:
“I am required to try and solve the Elderly Prisoners’ Issues by law under the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act before seeking class action Litigation. Supt. Brittain you know this is a real issue, and I realize changes take awhile. However, not being taken seriously for something this important I have no other choice, to save my life and others. I’ve been housed in the hardest control units in the U.S. I have issues from years of isolation, starvation and other abuses while at Marion [infamous federal lock-down prison], they fed me one meal a day, in the dark and now I’m old and still going through it.”
Major Tillery asks for “proper medical care opposed to dismissing our concerns and needs.” This complaint is for consideration of aging prisoners, eliminating lengthy periods of standing for count, or in line for medications and commissary or out in the cold between buildings or in the cell without long johns, gloves, sweaters, extra blankets. It is also a demand to stop staff bullying and harassment of elderly prisoners for memory loss, inability to hear announcements, or time needed to walk through the prison from the cell to the mess hall to the infirmary. The proposals repeated the need for a mentoring program with younger prisoners that would also provide assistance to seniors.
YOU CAN HELP:
TELL PRISON OFFICIALS:
Elderly Prisoners Need Respect and Additional Care
Implement Major Tillery’s Proposals, including an elderly housing unit and a mentoring program with younger prisoners; more medical attention; and appropriate clothing and additional blankets in cold weather
SCI Frackville Superintendent Kathy Brittain 570 874-4516
Dep. Secretary, DOC Eastern Region Michael Wenerowicz 717 728 4122 or 4123
Excerpts of testimonials from Major Tillery, Terrence Poles and Clifford Smith below. Read these in full on Justice for Major Tillery
The New Forgotten Men and Women!
Major Tillery AM978, January 18, 2018
Now we have a group of “New Forgotten Man and Women,” the elderly held in Pennsylvania state prisons. Take myself– in 1983 at the age of 33 I entered the prison with a life sentence, without the chance of parole. At that time I was both mentally and physically strong. Even back then I noticed how older people were being treated; the lack of concern [for] programming for elderly assistance didn’t exist.
Although I was 33 then, it struck me as wrong and on several occasions I complained to the administration on behalf of the elderly and mentally ill prisoners. This bothered me to the point that I filed a civil lawsuit on these issues. [Tillery v. Owens, a federal a lawsuit that ended double-celling (4 in a cell) in PA prisons and required the Pa. Department of Corrections to provide additional mental and medical health care to prisoners.] …
The DOC has a humanitarian problem as it relates to how people treat other people.
Now I face the same fears. Not dying, but to die among people and medical staff who would treat one of the dogs up here with more care and compassion than me. I’m not exaggerating, it’s true. I have it a little better than most older prisoners here, because after 35 years I helped raise a lot of these young brothers, so they check on me daily. But what about the others, the older people who are not Major Tillery? They get pushed around, cheated for phone time, medical treatment just flat out dogged by both staff and other prisoners. I only get problems mostly from administration. So when the old people come to me, I try to bring their grievances with mine. And like I started— ‘Forgotten Men and Women in 1983’ and now ‘Forgotten in 2018’ … .
Aging in Prison
By Bro Tacuma/Terrence Poles BL5740
NEGLECT, CARELESSNESS and DISRESPECT, are the main aspects of aging in prison that the general public isn’t fully aware of. First and foremost my name is Terrence Poles. I’m 55 years old, and I’ve been serving a DBI sentence since 1989. (Death By Incarceration: AKA LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE.)
We’re NEGLECTED because the state doesn’t offer any meaningful or therapeutic programs for the elderly.
Because of their CARELESSNESS and callousness, they won’t even give/allow me to use an extra mattress (for back pain and arthritis).
The DISRESPECT is manifested in so many ways. We aren’t given thermals, vitamins, or nutrients and other things that will prolong our health and well-being. There isn’t even a housing unit for the elderly. Some older individuals have serious medical issues, which may cause them to have to get in the showers at certain times. Instead of having to wait until 3 pm standing for sometimes 15 minutes to 20 minutes just to get into the shower.
A Summary of Life, My Life as an Old Man…
By Clifford Smith AM8913 (AKA) Robert Amin Atkins
It’s 2018: I’ve been incarcerated for 36 years, watching my life, my hopes, dreams, and visions slip away. That’s my perception. It’s a reality that society, my correctional community see me, and all the elderly at SCI Frackville.
Is it unreasonable to request civil, fundamental, basic human rights for the elderly? Fair treatment programs that inspire growth? Awareness of how to transition to old age? It’s a difficult task, with deliberate indifference from staff, and other inmates who don’t understand that they will eventually grow old, and die in prison. Why can’t we die with respect and dignity?
I’m fighting for the right to be treated fairly as we grow older. I’m afraid I will have my job taken from me because I am an old man and continue to question, challenge our treatment.
When you speak truth to power there are consequences; but we won’t be silent. The simple things we do day to day are a challenge, like walking to the dining hall. I’m bumped, pushed just because I don’t move fast enough. If I don’t chew fast enough, I’m not allowed to finish my meal. I’ve outlined many examples of abuse and questions about the treatment of the elderly.
In struggle, Amin The (Old Man)
Write separately to:
Major Tillery AM9786
Clifford Smith AM8913
Terrence Poles BL5740
1111 Altamount Blvd.
Frackville, PA 17931
For More Information, Go To: JusticeForMajorTillery.org
Kamilah Iddeen (717) 379-9009,
Rachel Wolkenstein, Esq. (917) 689-4009, RachelWolkenstein@gmail.com