In this edition: A man at SCI Pine Grove goes on hunger strike to protest sexual and physical abuse of children incarcerated there, a prisoner at SCI Houtzdale is given three months in solitary confinement after an investigation that found him innocent of gang charges, staff in SCI Camp Hill's behavior modification solitary confinement unit use cells strewn with human waste as punishment, and more..
News from the Inside
Prisoner back on Hunger Strike at SCI Pine Grove: Nadir Tarique Allah, a prisoner recently transferred from SCI Cresson, began a hunger strike on July 20 to protest the sexual and physical abuse being committed against juveniles at SCI Pine Grove. Allah's previous hunger strike occurred from June 21 to July 6, in protest of circumstances surrounding the suicide of John McClellan that Allah witnessed at SCI Cresson. In the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at Pine Grove, the prison administration recently authorized the covering of all cell widows in an attempt, as Nadir states, to block communication between cells and to stop the juveniles from passing on HRC information to one another. Despite this reported event, HRC has been receiving letters from juveniles in the RHU describing instances of abuse. Writes Allah: "The general public really need to know how these babies (juveniles) are being sexually abused, beat, and prayed upon by prison guards." Allah has since reported being removed from the RHU in an attempt to keep him from exercising leadership in the struggle for human rights, by preventing him from encouraging others to write to HRC.
Prisoner at SCI Huntingdon gets 90 Days Solitary for Using Confidential Prison Hotline: Donald Allen received 90 days of disciplinary custody in solitary confinement at SCI Huntingdon for lying to an employee and for unauthorized use of a telephone after using the confidential prisoner hotline to report sexual harassment by a correctional officer. Allen reports that on June 10, Officer Skillings blew him kisses and licked his tongue at him and made sexual remarks to him from the desk on the tier in front of E Block. He reports that the provocation took place in front of a video camera and repeatedly asked security investigators to consult the video footage as evidence.
In a letter which included documentation of grievances he filed and replies from staff members, Allen asked that state police be contacted to assist him in submitting a sexual harassment claim. Allen’s initial grievance filed at the institutional level was dismissed after an internal security investigation revealed Officer Skillings was not working on the day Allen accused him of the harassment. Allen reframed his arguments and filed a new grievance stating that he was nervous about filing the complaint, that the incident took place on June 10 and that staff could still check the video footage to investigate his claim. Grievance Coordinator Connie Green concluded that the initial security investigation was conducted in a fair and respectful way for the date of June 11 and stated that “the Security Office does not have time or resources to continually reopen cases based on your memory.” In an appeal to Hearing Examiner Charles Mitchell, Allen’s grievance was denied stating that because Allen gave the wrong date he is “simply not credible.” In a third appeal to the Program Review Committee, Allen stated that his claim of sexual harassment had still not been investigated and that he needed the Committee to examine video footage for June 10. After reviewing the two previous staff reports, the Program Review Committee upheld the ninety days solitary sentence, ruling that the “misconduct and hearing reports provided enough evidence to justify the imposed sanction.”
Racial Slurs used against Prisoner at Houtzdale: In a similar report from May 15, Dashawn Jamison reports being sexually harassed by prison guard Dominick at Houtzdale. Jamison was using the bathroom in his cell, and he had put two pieces of paper up on his cell window for privacy. Dominick stopped by Jamison’s cell door and said “I don’t know why you have that paper up, I can still see that nigger dick. Take the paper down and let me get a better look.” Jamison then asked to speak to a Lieutenant in order to file a grievance. Dominick’s response was “How about I give you a misconduct? Still want a grievance?"
Jamison told him he still would like to file a grievance and later requested an internal investigation into the abuse. Jamison collected multiple affidavits of support from other prisoners who witnessed the abuse but reported his grievance was denied after a phony investigation. Jamison’s grievance appeal was also denied. In retaliation for Jamison filing a grievance against Dominick, he was given a misconduct for lying to an employee. Not only was Jamison’s grievance denied without a thorough investigation, he was further penalized for asserting his rights for filing a grievance. Jamison appealed the misconduct for lying to an employee, but it was upheld.
Prisoner at Somerset Needs Hip Replacement, Continually Denied Treatment: State prisoner Louis Greenley reported in May that he was in desperate need of surgery on his hip, which Prison Health Services has repeatedly denied him. Months later, Greenley still has not received adequate medical attention. The Department of Corrections allowed Greenley to consult a physical therapist, who informed him that his hip was too far gone and that his only option is surgery. Prison Health Services continues to deny Greenley’s basic human right to adequate medical treatment, and instead allow him to apply a heating pad to his hip, for 15 minutes, once a week.
Prisoner at SCI Houtzdale gets Three Months in Solitary for Avoiding Gang Activity: Ryan Luterman, a prisoner at SCI Houtzdale, has been in Administrative Custody solitary confinement for three months awaiting a transfer decision from the Department of Corrections after being placed there for avoiding gang activity. An internal investigation found Luterman not guilty of gang activity but advised his transfer for security reasons. Phone calls by Luterman’s parents to the Department of Corrections Central Office revealed that he had been approved for transfer but that the location of that transfer could not be revealed. “I don’t need to know where he is going. I just need it to be closer to here,” said Luterman’s mother Patricia, in an interview with HRC. Luterman’s parents have custody of his six year old son, who they drive three hours one way and three hours back, so he can sit behind glass and talk to his dad for an hour. “They make it impossible for the family to stay involved with one phone call a month. It used to be a five hour drive when Ryan was first housed at SCI Graterford. The system has no consideration for the family” said Luterman’s father, Martin. “I had to pay 335 dollars so they could put him in shackles so the sheriff would bring him to his grandmother’s funeral. My biggest fear is that I won’t be alive when my son gets out.”
Statistics on Pennsylvania prison populations for this month showed that all prisons except for Cambridge Springs, a woman’s facility, and SCI Waymart, a mental health facility were over 100% population. Luterman has no previous separations from other inmates or correctional officers, so there is no logic to him being transferred farther away from home.
Patricia and Martin Luterman are asking members of HRC and family members with loved ones inside to call Brad Newton at the Secretary of Department of Corrections Central Office to inquire about who makes the decisions on a transfer, and ask that their son be transferred closer to Pittsburgh so that he may see his 6 year old son.
DOC uses Human Waste as a Behavior Modification Tool: Reuben Henry reports from the Special Management Unit (SMU) at SCI Camp Hill that part of the behavior modification program staff's informal procedure is to use cells strewn with urine and feces to intimidate, antagonize, and force compliance from prisoners.
In a log kept through June and July, Henry lists several instances of corrections officers placing men in cells that were already coated with human waste by previous occupants. He notes that he first observed this on his first day in the program, when he was issued blankets soiled with urine and feces. According to Henry, this practice is just one of the tactics employed by prison staff to break the men housed in the unit; another is the denial of access to the court system. Henry reports that he was refused his legal material for nearly a month, until he filed a motion in federal court to gain access to his legal work.
The situation recently came to a head on July 27, when he was placed in a hard cell after passing out in an exercise cage strewn with waste. The hard cell, too, was coated in waste, and Henry reports that he had to wear his shirt over his face to breathe.
According to the Department of Corrections, the purpose of the Special Management Unit is to provide an environment in which prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement can learn the skills necessary to return to housing in general population.
Repeated Retaliation at Federal Prison Lewisburg: Derrick Brown reports from US Federal prison in Lewisburg that he and other prisoners are being systematically retaliated against. A few instances he reports are as follows:
A whole prison range was sprayed with chemicals and 35-Gun-Spray balls causing severe suffering on part of many prisoners including Mr. Brown, several of whom are suffering from asthma. Only one prisoner was given medical attention days after the incident.
Mr. Brown also reports that prison staff are interfering with his rights to access the courts, law library, legal materials and legal assistance in violation of federal law. All of his legal books and materials were taken away by staff to the property room and most of the material never returned. He has appealed to the courts after an earlier submission of complaints, because he has continuously been denied access to legal facilities by prison staff.
Mr. Brown also cites deliberate denial of medical care by Physician Assistant Hemphill, Paramedic/E.M.T. Walls and Porter and Registered nurse Brennan on the occasion of his "food poisoning" on June 12. Mr. Brown reports experiencing massive headache, numbness and cold chills, body shakes, and sweating starting a few hours after lunch on that day. He developed high fever subsequently. The next day he got blisters on his tongue, lips, mouth and in the corner of his right eye. Mr. Brown requested outside medical care, full examination, blood tests to determine causes and as well as photos to be taken - yet no medical care was ever provided to him.
ACLU contests Montana DOC’s “English-Only” Policy for Inmate Mail: The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana has filed a civil complaint on behalf of William Diaz-Wassmer, a person serving a life sentence at Montana State Prison, who has been denied the right to correspond with his family and friends in Spanish, in violation of his First Amendment right to free speech and his Fourteenth Amendment Right to equal protection. For his first two years in prison Mr. Diaz-Wassmer corresponded by mail in Spanish because a prison worker had voluntarily translated his correspondence to prison staff. After the worker left in May 2010, Mr. Diaz-Wassmer was prohibited from receiving mail in any language but English. This prohibition makes it impossible for Diaz-Wassmer to communicate with his family who lives outside of the country. Calls and visits, although permitted, are too costly.
Attorneys for Montana's prison system on July 29 asked a federal judge to dismiss the ACLU law arguing that restrictions on inmate correspondence prohibit letters written in "code or foreign language not understood" by corrections staff who monitor prison mail for a "potential security threat." The DOC attorney also said budget constraints have prevented the state from hiring another interpreter and computer software has proved inadequate for automated translation. "While it is true that prisoners do not lose all of their constitutional rights upon incarceration, some rights retained by free citizens are lost or necessarily diminished by imprisonment," the DOC attorney said in legal documents filed. ACLU Montana said "If anything written in anything other than English or in code is held, that is the equivalent of an English-only policy and inmates do not give up their constitutional rights when they enter prison.” (Story excerpted from ACLU Montana and Reuters)
Court Upholds Access to Medical Care for Transgendered Prisoners: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on August 5th, 2011 upheld the right of transgender people to receive medical care while they are incarcerated. In 2005 Wisconsin legislature passed the so-called “Inmate Sex Change Prevention Act”, that barred transgender prisoners from receiving hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery. The law was challenged by the ACLU and Lambda Legal and in 2010 was repealed. The state filed an appeal to reinstate the law, but the court on Friday upheld the 2010 decision, ruling that a denial of medical access for transgendered prisoners constituted cruel and unusual punishment. “This decision should make it abundantly clear that it is unconstitutional to deny transgender inmates hormone therapy and sex reassignment surgery absent a medical basis for doing so,” said Larry Dupuis, legal director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. (Story was summarized from aclu.org)
Philly area: Wednesdays are Write On! Prison Letter Writing Night at the LAVA space at 4134 Lancaster, 6-9 pm. Come help us stay connected with the many prisoners who write to us with news from inside, learn to document crimes committed by prison staff, and help bring an end to the abuse and torture of our brothers and sisters behind bars.
If you'd like to know more about the Human Rights Coalition or would like to get involved, come to Write On!, to our monthly general meetings (second Monday of each month, 6pm), or call us at 215-921-3491, email email@example.com, or visit our website at http://www.hrcoalition.org./
Pittsburgh area: Write On! – letter writing to prisoners and HRC work night every Wednesday at 5129 Penn Avenue from 7 -10pm. To get involved with HRC/Fed Up! in Pittsburgh,email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 412-654-9070.
You've been listening to the Human Rights Coalition's PA Prison Report. HRC is a group of current and former prisoners, family members, and supporters, whose ultimate goal is to abolish prisons.