“Mind Blowing Because I’m a Kid”

This was reblogged from SolitaryWatch.

The following comes from Joe (pseudonym), a minor who has been incarcerated since last summer, held in solitary confinement for over six months. In his letter to Solitary Watch, he describes his life on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a jail where he has no access to any rehabilitation or other programs, classes or church. He recounts in detail in his letter the conditions to which he is exposed on a daily basis; the jail is windowless, without sunlight or fresh air. Joe talks about a “waiver,” by which, in this case, he means going before a judge, who, considering his age, will order he be treated as a minor.

Following Joe’s letter is an “inventory of grievances” he prepared regarding the conditions he endures. His list states that, in this jail, which he describes as hot and filthy, he is on some days denied his hour out, refused any sort of mental health services, and is provided with no opportunities for outside recreation. He writes, ”Experiences like this, I promise you, I am never locking up an animal or anything living in a box, tank, or cage.” –Lisa Dawson

Waking up almost every day at around 2 or 3 am, the first thing I see is the wall my bed is connected to. When I see this, I sigh and say, “I’m still here.” Another day, is the only way I can put this without actually trying to calculate my last days. Oh, by the way, it’s 23/1 lockdown where I am housed. That’s the best they have for juveniles. I’ve been on lockdown for 7-1/2 months and counting. How do I do it? The strength of my almighty Father God, the support from my loved ones, and the determination to become something great. I can help other kids in my position.

I don’t get any programs, school classes, or church, because I’m 17. Crazy, right? Well if you think that’s crazy, check this out: the location in the jail I am housed in, there’s no sunlight, no windows, no fresh air, and no outside rec. The only times I get to see the sun is on court dates (for about 10 minutes, altogether).
It’s funny, because a lot of adults, grown men, who come in and out of jail/prison ask me, a 17 year old kid, how I stay sane without my natural resources and on lockdown. “It is what it is,” is usually what I tell them.

Every day I’m in here, I try to plan my hour out of the cell: who am I going to call, how long will the call be, how long can I walk around, and how long will my shower take. Even when I get back to my cell, I plan: how long should I read this book, how long should I study the books a friend gave me, how long should I spend writing my life stories, how long will I draw, etc. If you try to read all day, you’re setting yourself up for failure, because once you’ve finished the book(s), you have absolutely nothing to keep you occupied, and you slowly lose your mind. Many people would say sleep, ha! You can only sleep so much, and if you do sleep all day, the next day is going to be a long 23 hours for you.

It’s amazing how the jail is getting away with this. Mind blowing, really, because I’m a kid, surviving without my daily needs ever day, while some adults can’t even do this for one week.

Read the rest here.

In Maryland, youth offenders get no second chances

Reblogged from: SF Bay View, Nov. 1, 2013
by Gary Cooper
I came to prison at the age of 14 charged with two first degree attempted murders 12 years ago to serve an original 20-year sentence. I inevitably received an additional seven and a half years for a framed second degree assault on staff and possession of a concealed weapon, bringing my sentence to 27½ years. It’s the ingenious design of prison to focus more on profit and perpetual imprisonment through antagonizing and framing inmates than on rehabilitation, human rights and community development.
prison isolation

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture cites North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland, as notorious for its treatment of prisoners whose mental health is threatened by long term solitary confinement.

We get no second chances. African American youth like myself grew up in East Baltimore, never hearing about the tortuous prison structure, George Jackson, Angela Davis or Kwame Toure. We only heard about being a thug, not the consequences and reality that once you commit a crime, the sentencing cap is 30 to life with a plea bargain for 20-25 years.

Even if you shot a stick-up man once in the back for robbing you of someone else’s heroin and money or the rusty gun you found running the alleyways of the inner city accidentally discharged while you tussled over possession of it with a co-defendant, shooting a White woman once in the buttocks – both scenarios transpired in my case – you still get no second chances.
In 2011 the parole commissioner said that my crimes were too violent for me to be released back into society for a second chance. I did my sentence wrong, focusing more on introspective clarity and knowledge to have something on my mind so as not to come back to prison when I should’ve only been focusing on being subservient to the administration who come to work daily with an “us against them” mentality.
Because I didn’t learn that I have no win and didn’t allow myself to be dehumanized and castrated as a man, I am not ready to be back with my family because I have no right to be upset at the criminality of law enforcement. Just look at all that I have probably done wrong.

It’s the ingenious design of prison to focus more on profit and perpetual imprisonment through antagonizing and framing inmates than on rehabilitation, human rights and community development.

I am currently housed in what I believe to be one of the most racist and tortuous institutions in the country, the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. This is the institution where they denied me parole, the institution where I was pusillanimously attacked by the administration and two correctional officers, Sgt. B. Bowman and Officer S. Lease, the institution where my many stresses all come down on me and where, though I hate to admit it, I had a mental breakdown.
My grandmother died in October 2011, but I didn’t receive notice until 30 days later and was denied a grieving call by the institutional chaplain because he forgot my mother’s message on his answering service a month prior and by the time the notice reached me through mail the matter was long overdue. Reality set in that all the knowledge I learned, the changes I made – it was all worth nothing.

I am currently housed in what I believe to be one of the most racist and tortuous institutions in the country, the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland.

I’m going to be trapped in prison for the next 16 years and probably lose my mother as well as my only supporters because these demonic, racist correctional officers overshadowed my true essence within my case file out of pure hatred and malice. I couldn’t eat, sleep or move. I waited for death to take me.
There is no politically conscious support in Maryland inside or out, so the worst thing I could’ve done was make changes and dream while in prison, because that’s when life gets miserable and reality sets in.
On June 24, 2012, they placed me on suicide watch in a concealed cell where they are notorious for attacking inmates. I knew my date. The wolf was finally defenseless and out his mind. They came in at 7:00 in the morning and instructed me to wake up and lie on the floor to be handcuffed, then to shower and see someone.
Once I complied, I was immediately hit in my face with a blast of strong mace. Then they put the mace can in between my buttocks (up my butt!) and blasted me with mace again.
They repeated that motion all the while kicking me in my ribs. Then they dragged me out of the cell completely naked, punched me in my face around the medical station, then handcuffed and shackled me to a loop that they call the “D-ring,” putting me on public display for two hours burning with mace.
They concocted a story to cover their tracks that I was unresponsive so they came into the cell to check on me and I scooped up an unknown liquid substance with my hands and threw it – the liquid – across the cell, splashing both of the officers in the face. Ha! Where in the laws of physics is that possible?
All I request is what I wrote to Gov. O’Malley of Maryland, to order polygraph tests for myself and the officers on what really happened in that cell, revealing that these sick sadist savages brutalized me beyond belief. I want my freedom through parole, finally being given a second chance with my family, because if I can endure that and control my rage and hatred, then who are the parole commissioners to say that I don’t deserve to be given a second chance?
I am a freelance writer who has written many books, movie scripts, etc. I am hoping to find activists to network with and offer me support with finally getting my books published, exposing the modern day prison industrial complex and its new agendas.

I want my freedom through parole, finally being given a second chance with my family, because if I can endure that and control my rage and hatred, then who are the parole commissioners to say that I don’t deserve to be given a second chance?

I also urge the SHU prisoners and others across the country to stay strong and continue to fight. I know it’s hard, but daily I think about giving up because I’m alone in Maryland, but my desire to be better and to be heard drives me to keep reaching out, even if I have to reach all the way to another coast for help.
Send our brother some love and light: Gary Cooper, 311-499, NBCI, 14100 McMullen Hwy. SW, Cumberland, MD 21502.

Housing young criminals in adult prisons may put public at risk

 From the Plain Dealer, by Guest Columnist Gabriella Celeste
June 2nd 2012

“It’s like a zoo in here when it’s lights out . . . I can’t sleep at night . . . I’m going crazy.” These words haunt me when I think about my visit with a 15-year-old kid in an adult prison. A couple of his teeth had been knocked out. His hands and knees shook nervously while we talked. He showed me the tattoos he had inked on himself “to try and make me look tougher to the other guys.” He talked about the regret and shame he felt for his offense. Certainly, he should be held accountable. But it was clear that he would get no chance to turn himself around in that environment. If anything, he appeared to be becoming more hardened every day. He confessed that he was scared nearly every waking moment, and, based on what research tells us, he had reason to be.


Read the rest here

Pepper spray in Ohio juvenile lockups unwarranted

From: NECN.com
Nov 30, 2011

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The pepper spraying of juvenile inmates in September broke numerous state rules and was without exception unwarranted, a court-appointed monitor concluded in a report. The state has argued a violent gang outbreak justified the spraying.

The analysis of several incidents in which gang members were pepper sprayed as they were transferred between units sheds more light on Ohio’s evolving youth prison system, which is both shrinking but also growing more violent as only serious offenders remain in state custody.

A member of a court-appointed monitoring team who reviewed 11 pepper spray cases found “not a single incident” where the use was justified, according to the 16-page report filed Monday in federal court in Columbus.

“None of the youth were armed; none were barricaded; none were physically violent; none were engaged in targeted aggressive movement toward staff; and none were engaged in striking, grabbing, pushing or punching of staff,” according to the report by team member Steve Martin.

Martin cited three cases where guards sprayed pepper spray into their hands, then swiped it on the faces of juveniles already being held down.

Applying pepper spray “in this fashion is extraordinarily dangerous and greatly increases the risk of asphyxia during a prone restraint,” the report said. Martin noted that “the ‘facial swipe’ tactic is unprecedented in my many years of experience reviewing and investigating hundreds of use of force incidents” involving pepper spray.

The monitoring team reviewed incidents in September in which the Department of Youth Services asked adult prison guards to help move youth identified as gang leaders. Seven youths from Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility in Delaware and 12 from Circleville Correctional Facility were moved to a separate unit at the Scioto facility.

A Youth Services spokeswoman declined comment because the incident involves an ongoing lawsuit. But the state painted a dire picture in a Nov. 18 court filing justifying its use of the pepper spray.

In August and September, gang-related violence had exploded, with 11 large-scale incidents involving multiple youths. Teens were breaking out of their cells for fights, and numerous guards and juvenile inmates suffered injuries. By the end of September, 20 staff members were on leave due to injuries from assaults, the filing said.

Teens not involved in the violence were refusing to go to school or therapy sessions out of fear for their safety, according to the filing.

“The outright ban of pepper spray could make it impossible for DYS to restore order during extraordinary circumstances without resorting to more risky physical intervention techniques, making injury to youths and staff much more likely,” the state said, noting that no youth who was sprayed needed anything more than basic first aid afterward.

A court-ordered monitor continues to oversee Ohio’s attempts to make youth prisons safer following a 2004 lawsuit that alleged a culture of violence.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley ordered the state to ensure pepper spray is not used to quell disturbances in state youth detention facilities. He plans a hearing next month.

Marbley’s order also required the state to film forceful restraints of juveniles and to provide immediate explanations when outside guards are called in.

The monitoring team’s report said Youth Services failed several times to videotape pepper sprayings.

“Although ten of the eleven applications of … spray were planned uses of force, DYS personnel failed to properly record all but two of those incidents with handheld cameras,” the report said.

Read the rest here.

DOJ Settlement With OCFS: Just Another Federal Power Grab

Relating to the post below, this press release was sent to us by Fraud Out. We updated their press release:

http://www.prlog.org/10801463-feds-take-over-nys-youth-prisons.html

The NY OCFS-DOJ settlement agreement has nothing to do with the youth. It has to do with the money the youth are entitled to when in NYS custody and who will be paid off with that money.

PRLog (Press Release) – Jul 17, 2010 – Governor Paterson Announces A Contrived Settlement with USDOJ to Continue Efforts to (1) Consolidate Power Over America’s Youth With the Federal Government; and (2) Cover Up Taxpayer Fraud

PRLog (Press Release) – Jul 15, 2010 – Governor David A. Paterson today announced that New York State has executed a Settlement Agreement with the United States Department of Justice, which will do absolutely nothing except give OCFS Federal cover while it steals from the American taxpayer while incarcerating youth.

The four facilities which were the subject of the investigation are the Finger Lakes Residential Center, formerly called Louis Gossett Jr. Residential Center and the Lansing Residential Center in Lansing, Tompkins County as well as the Tryon Girls Center and the Tryon Residential Center in Johnstown, Fulton County. The Tryon Residential Center is scheduled to close in January 2011. As previously reported. Tryon Residential Center is scheduled to close, but OCFS just put in close to $21 million in renovations. Stimulus Money? Bridge to NoWhere?

The Agreement further requires that prompt and adequate mental health care be provided to youth, including screening for mental health issues and referral, where appropriate, to qualified mental health professionals. In addition, the Agreement sets forth protocols and documentation requirements for youth who are prescribed psychotropic medications or who refuse to take psychotropic medications. Youth will be screened and treated for substance abuse issues, where appropriate. Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, the State and the United States will jointly select two monitors to oversee compliance with the Agreement. The Settlement Agreement and a Complaint will be filed with the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York.

Governor Paterson’s 2010-11 Executive Budget included $18.2 million to implement reforms required by the Settlement Agreement. This funding was approved by the Legislature, and will be used to hire additional mental health professionals, counselors and direct care staff, as well as to provide extensive training to current and new employees in the juvenile justice facilities that were the subject of the investigation.

WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON

The DOJ Investigation, Settlement Agreement is a cover-up for what is really occurring which is to consolidate power over America’s youth in the Federal Government, and cover up the massive amounts of taxpayer fraud taking place at OCFS.

How Do We know this?

DOJ’s report only covered injuries to youth. Did you know that staff worker compensation injury claims went up 60% with a 42% increase due to assault. Did you know that OCFS submits petitions to the NYS courts claiming that the youth are being provided with services that they are not being provided, and gets the courts to extend the stays of these youths based on false petitions. Did you know that no where in DOJ’s report does it mention the fraud that is rampantly and openly taking place at OCFS including the $1 billion plus no bid contracts including contracts for therapists that apparently aren’t really on staff.

OCFS is already paying between $210,000 to $260,000 per youth per year to house at an OCFS facility. The Feds didn’t even look to see if the amount OCFS was billing the taxpayer equalled the amount of services that were being provided to the youth. The youth is getting maybe 20% of the services being billed to the taxpayer, the rest of the money is a money laundering scheme where OCFS maximize taxpayer fraud by hiring cronies state/government subsidized entities to provide services for youth in order to regain taxpayer money through the back door (the federal taxpayer) rather than through state taxes.

Every taxpayer in America should be mortified that their money to the tune of $210,000 to $260,000 per youth per year is being paid without anyone blinking an eye at the price tag or conducting an audit regarding what services are being billed to the taxpayer versus what services are actually being provided.

The DOJ audit and subsequent monitoring should NOT be applauded, it should be condemned for what it is: (1) a power grab for America’s youth; and (2) a taxpayer fraud cover-up.

— end —

Federal Oversight for Youth Prisons Imposed. Advocates Say Most Young People Can Be Treated in Their Communities

July 15, 2010

“… advocates for youths in state custody said they would continue to seek a far-reaching transformation in the juvenile justice system in New York, which they say merely warehouses youths who in most cases need intensive psychiatric care and counseling rather than being locked up. –“The changes will only affect those kids who have mental health needs who are already incarcerated,” said Gabrielle Prisco, director of the Juvenile Justice Project at the Correctional Association of New York. “It doesn’t get to the fact that any of those young people could be safely treated in their communities without ever seeing the inside of a prison cell.”

Federal Oversight for Troubled N.Y. Youth Prisons
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE
Published: July 14, 2010- NY Times

Four of New York’s most dangerous and troubled youth prisons will be placed under federal oversight, strict new limits will be imposed on the use of physical force by guards, and dozens of psychiatrists, counselors and investigators will be hired under a sweeping agreement finalized on Wednesday between state and federal officials.

The agreement will usher in the most significant expansion of mental health services in years for youths in custody, the vast majority of whom suffer from drug or alcohol problems, developmental disabilities or mental health problems.

Currently, the state does not have a single full-time psychiatrist on staff to treat young offenders.

Guards at the youth prisons, known as youth counselors, will be barred from physically restraining youths except when a person’s physical safety is threatened or a youth is trying to escape from the institution.

Guards will be allowed to use the most controversial method — in which a youth is forced to the ground and held face-down — for at most three minutes, with evaluation by a doctor to follow within four hours.

The accord comes almost a year after the Justice Department threatened to take over New York’s juvenile justice system unless the state took significant steps to rectify problems at the four prisons, where physical abuse was rampant and mental health counseling was scant or nonexistent.

“It is New York’s fundamental responsibility to protect juveniles in its custody from harm and to uphold their constitutional rights,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said in a statement. “We have worked cooperatively with New York officials to craft an agreement to ensure that the constitutional rights of juveniles at the four facilities are protected, and we commend New York and the New York State Office of Children and Families for their willingness to work aggressively to remedy these problems.”

Federal investigators found that staff members at the four institutions — the Lansing Residential Center and the Louis Gossett Jr. Residential Center, in Lansing, and two residences, one for boys and one for girls, at Tryon Residential Center in Johnstown — routinely used physical force to discipline the youths, resulting in broken bones, shattered teeth, concussions and dozens of other serious injuries in a period of less than two years.

Gov. David A. Paterson said in a statement, “With this historic settlement agreement, New York takes another step towards achieving true transformation of our juvenile justice system.”

Mr. Paterson, who has been trying to address problems plaguing the juvenile system, introduced legislation in June to let judges sentence youths to juvenile prisons only if they had been found guilty of a violent crime or a sex crime or were deemed to be a serious threat to themselves or others. Juvenile prisons house those convicted of criminal acts, from truancy to murder, who are too young to serve in adult jails and prisons.

The federal inquiry began in 2007 after a spate of episodes, including the 2006 death of a disturbed 15-year-old after two employees at the Tryon center pinned him down on the ground.

Two monitors, jointly chosen by federal and state officials, will oversee the state’s efforts to carry out the accord over the next two years, making regular progress reports to a federal judge, who must approve the agreement before it goes into effect.

Money for the new staffing — including a full-time psychiatrist at each of the four prisons, five licensed psychologists and more than a dozen social workers and nurse practitioners — was included in parts of the state budget already approved in Albany.

The state-federal accord, filed in United States District Court in Albany, echoes recommendations issued in December by a state task force, which found major shortcomings throughout the youth prison system. The task force recommended substantially expanding mental health care and replacing most residential youth prisons with smaller centers closer to communities where most young offenders and their families are from.

While the accord officially applies just to the four institutions cited, state officials said they hoped to use it as a springboard to seek broad changes through the juvenile system, which now houses 667 youths in 26 facilities around the state.

“It continues to move us in the right direction,” said Gladys Carrión, commissioner of the Office of Children and Family Services, which oversees the juvenile justice system. “It’s an affirmation of the work we have done already and of the recommendations of the governor’s task force.”

Ms. Carrión, who has moved aggressively in recent months to cut the number of youths in state custody and to limit the use of force by guards, said she would require all youth prisons in New York to abide by the restrictions on physical restraint. She said the state also planned to hire a chief psychiatrist in the near future to oversee drug regimens and mental health counseling at all of the state’s youth prisons.

But advocates for youths in state custody said they would continue to seek a far-reaching transformation in the juvenile justice system in New York, which they say merely warehouses youths who in most cases need intensive psychiatric care and counseling rather than being locked up.

“The changes will only affect those kids who have mental health needs who are already incarcerated,” said Gabrielle Prisco, director of the Juvenile Justice Project at the Correctional Association of New York. “It doesn’t get to the fact that any of those young people could be safely treated in their communities without ever seeing the inside of a prison cell.”
A version of this article appeared in print on July 15, 2010, on page A1 of the New York edition.
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/15/nyregion/15juvenile.html?_r=1