In this edition Inhumane treatment of a woman prisoner undergoing vaginal examination at Muncy, Prisoner wins hearing in quest to halt malicious prosecution, Abu Ghraib torturer gets released before term, Former Judge Sentenced in Kids-for-Cash Scandal and more…
News from the Inside
Prisoner at Muncy Torn During Vaginal Exam: A prisoner at SCI Muncy, Elyse Wilson, reports pain and frustration from two tears on her vagina that she received during an annual exam with DOC gynecologist Dr. Rodriguez. Wilson reports that Rodriguez “opened her vagina like someone would open a potato chip bag”, triggering past experiences of rape and causing her to scream and tear up. Wilson requested the exam after problems with urination, which she suspected, meant a prolapsed bladder. After the exam, she experienced pain and bleeding and submitted a sick call to get antibiotic medication. She was met with resistance from Muncy medical staffer Dr. Gothwal, who told her “she shouldn’t be washing down there”, that “the vagina is a self cleansing organism”, and that it was a nice “clean cut” that would heal in two to three days. Wilson spoke with the supervisor of the medical department and superintendent of the prison and was able to acquire some antibiotic ointment. Wilson states that women at Muncy are reluctant to get their annual exams at the prison, knowing of Dr. Rodriguez’s roughness, and that this behavior is unacceptable and needs to be addressed. The Human Rights Coalition’s FedUp! chapter is planning an investigation into the abuse and a Focus on Woman Campaign Action in response to Wilson’s story.
Prisoner wins hearing in quest to halt malicious prosecution: Carrington Keys, a state prisoner and human rights defender, has been granted a hearing in the federal courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania this Monday, August 22. Keys is requesting that federal district court Judge Richard Caputo issue a preliminary injunction ordering Luzerne County District Attorney Jacqueline Musto Carroll to halt her prosecution of Keys for his participation in a lawful, peaceful protest in the solitary confinement unit at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas.
In April 2010, Keys and five other prisoners in the solitary confinement unit at SCI Dallas covered their cell windows and requested to speak with top officials at the prison and members of the press in protest of long-running abuse that included frequent physical assault, food deprivation, racist verbal abuse, and fabricated misconducts designed to bury men in years of solitary confinement. In response, prison staff assembled a riot squad and attacked the men with pepper spray and electro-shock weapons, stripped them of their clothing and left several naked and in shackles for hours on end.
In May 2010, the Human Rights Coalition submitted a criminal complaint on their behalf to District Attorney Carroll. The complaint was rejected despite the victims never being approached by the alleged investigator. In June 2010, Keys filed suit against the PA DOC officials and SCI Dallas staff for torture and human rights violations perpetrated against him. Carroll was also named as a defendant for having turned a blind eye to criminal complaints filed by Keys. The story was prominently featured in the local paper, the Dallas Times-Leader. The incident received further publicity during a hearing in front of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee in August 2010, when it was discussed in detail by a human rights advocate. Later that month, Carroll’s office brought riot charges against the Dallas Six for their peaceful protest.
Keys is requesting that Judge Caputo intervene and issue an injunction against Carroll to halt the prosecution due to its malicious and retaliatory nature.
Former PA Prison Guard Released after Six Years in Military Prison: Former PA corrections officer Charles Graner was released from the military stockade in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on August 6, after serving six years of a ten-year sentence for crimes committed against Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Graner was court-martialed and convicted in 2005 of conspiracy to commit maltreatment, dereliction of duty, and assault consummated by battery and indecent acts.
Graner was previously employed as a guard at Fayette County Jail and by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at SCI Greene. In 1999, he was one of five officers and administrators named in a lawsuit by a former prisoner, Horatio Nimley, who alleged officers put a razor blade into his mashed potatoes. Another former prisoner, Nick Yarris, characterized Graner’s code of conduct in a 2004 article in the Washington Post. He describes him bragging after taunting anti-death penalty protesters who had gathered outside the prison, using racial slurs, and telling a Muslim prisoner that he had rubbed pork all over his food tray. Graner was sent home from work one day in 1994 for spraying mace into a coworker’s coffee, making him sick as a joke.
By 2001, he had been issued three protection of abuse orders from his spouse before being enlisted to train soldiers participating in Iraq Military Operations “Enduring Freedom” and “Noble Eagle.” Graner was one of 11 officers prosecuted for war crimes that occurred at Abu Ghraib, though no ranking officers or government officials have ever been held accountable for torture.
Former Judge Sentenced in Kids-for-Cash Scandal: On Thursday, August 11, former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr. was ordered to spend 28 years in prison for a bribery scandal that prompted the state’s high court to overturn thousands of juvenile convictions. Mr. Ciavarella was convicted of taking a $1 million bribe from the builder of a pair of juvenile detention centers in a case that became known as “kids for cash.” In the wake of the scandal, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court overturned about 4,000 convictions issued by the judge, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the juveniles. Al Flora, Ciavarella’s lawyer, called the sentence “harsher than expected”.
Federal prosecutors accused Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, of taking more than $2 million in bribes from Robert Mericle, the builder of the PA Child Care and Western PA Child Care detention centers, and of extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars from Robert Powell, the facilities’ co-owner. Ciavarella took the cash while filling the beds of the private lockups with children as young as 10, many of them first-time offenders. Mr. Conahan pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.
Across the Nation
Florida finds restoring voting rights curb re-commitment rates: The Florida Parole Commission reports that a released offender in Florida whose civil rights are restored is much less likely to be recommitted to prison compared to released prisoners in general.
The agency studied 31,000 cases over two years in 2009 and 2010 and found 11 percent of released prisoners with civil rights restored ended up back in custody, compared to 33 percent of overall population of released prisoners. The Parole Commission report counters the new rules Florida Gov. Rick Scott and three Cabinet members adopted last March that scrapped a streamlined clemency process begun by former Gov. Charlie Crist. The new system, in effect since March, requires a five-year, crime-free period before clemency petitions to regain the right to vote or hold public office can be considered, with certain classes of people having to wait seven years. As of 2011, only two states, Kentucky and Virginia, continue to impose a life-long denial of the right to vote to all citizens with a felony record.
Desmond Meade, a former prisoner and the president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, called on Florida lawmakers to automatically restore the voting rights of ex-offenders, charging that having a million taxpaying citizens who are formerly incarcerated creates “a two-tier system of citizenship: those who may vote and those who may not.”
States reform to reduce prison costs and population: The national office of the American Civil Liberties Union reports that six typically “tough-on-crime” states (Texas, Mississippi, Kansas, South Carolina, Kentucky and Ohio) have pushed legislative reforms to reduce their prison population and saved millions in costs. The report is a comprehensive summary of these states adopting “Front End” (reducing unnecessary incarnation), “Back End” (reducing recidivism by changing parole and probation rules) and Systemic reforms (changing criminal justice holistically) in the last few years that have turned their tide on incarceration addiction when faced with plummeting budgets in a global recession. The report also covers four other states (California, Louisiana, Maryland and Indiana), which are following the footsteps of the above six with promise of pushing comparable reforms in the near future.
Some of the changes noted by the report as having a positive impact include:
- Decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana
- Reducing sentencing disparity between different types of drugs
- Ending mandatory minimum sentences
- Pushing treatment and parole over prison for non-violent offenders
- Letting prisoners earn credit toward early release
- Creating parole programs for elderly prisoners who are no longer a threat.
Both Democrat and Republican state administrations working under pressure and or collaboratively with various non-profit groups have pushed these reforms. The document provides a valuable resource that could be used to push similar reforms in other states that are yet to seriously address incarceration. The report indicates that the current global recession has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reform the gargantuan prison industrial complex that has grown 674 percent over the last 25 years costing the society immeasurably and tax payers $70 billion per year financially.
Around the Globe
Massive uprising in London: On August 4 in the Tottenham section of London, 29 year-old Mark Duggan was killed by a police officer after the cab he was riding in was stopped. What followed within hours was a wave a violent attacks on property spilling into several sections of London and lasting for several days.
London community activist Stafford Scott explains that after waiting four hours for the police to make a statement about Duggan’s death to a crowd that had gathered around the Tottenham police station, the congregation of people began to leave in frustration. Moments later, with the torching of police cars, the peaceful gathering had turned violent.
“It was…an outburst…spontaneous outburst, because people saw, we’ve been here for four hours. Women were leading the demonstration. When the women said, ‘Look, four hours. Our kids are now tired, we’re going home.’ When the guys saw the women leaving, that’s when the guys said, ‘Wow, we’ve been here for four hours and nothing’s happened. Nothing’s changed. They haven’t come to speak to us.’ And then when they saw some police cars—which for some reason were just parked up, unmanned—that was like a red flag to a bull. And they just had their go.”
Darcus Howe, Trinidadian-born columnist and broadcaster, in attempting to place the events in the context of current racial dynamics in London, explains, “In England right now, black boys are seen by the police as pests.” For the past 2 years, he says, young Black Londoners have been subjected to being stopped and searched by police in the street without being given an explanation of reasonable cause.
As well, Howe argues that recent cuts in public spending have resulted in increased lawlessness among youth in London. “And then came the cuts,” he explains, “There are no youth clubs. Nothing for young people. And everything is going up….[T]he cuts in public spending…locked the fridge. You get one meal a day. That is the poverty that is taking place in this country. And so they’re out on the streets in Putnam. If you had walked around that day (the day of Duggan’s death)…you will see four guys leaning on a lamppost…where usually they would have been in a youth club paid for by the local government. …Supervised, areas for sporting activities, and then there in another area you do your homework. [T]hey have been so ignored, that they will sit in your class at school, and you can’t, as we say, read the play. You can’t know what is going on with them….Watch it. Watch how his eyes start to dart around….and wanting to tell you the teacher, ‘Fuck off….’ And that’s been going on under their noses, beneath the surface; and it exploded on that fateful day when Mark Duggan was executed.”
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.
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