PA Prison Report - September 26, 2011

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In this edition: Lawsuits filed against rape and sexual violence at SCI Pittsburgh, Georgia murders Troy Davis, California prisoners at Pelican Bay resume their hunger strike, and more.

 

News From the Inside

Prisoner at Camp Hill attempts suicide after being denied mental health treatment: After being denied access to psychiatric medication and hearing self-destructive voices for the month of August, Joshua Payne attempted to kill himself by slitting his wrists and swallowing a razor at SCI Camp Hill. Payne was being housed in solitary confinement at the prison since September 2010. He reports being placed on and taken off medication repeatedly during the past year, and that the Department of Corrections is not taking his mental health treatment seriously. Payne reported hearing voices beginning in August coinciding with the time he began fasting for the Muslim holiday of Ramadan. A fellow prisoner reported that the DOC began denying Payne medication in relationship to the prisoner’s practice of religion. After his medication was cut, Payne began asking staff for access to treatment and insisting he should not be held in the solitary confinement units because of his health. Payne reported attempting suicide three other times prior to this incident. He was not sent to an outside facility for treatment, but was transferred to SCI Graterford where he reported being put in a restraint chair for 5 days until he defecated the razor. Payne reported not being able to sleep for over ten days and still being denied access to mental health treatment, consultations, and medication at Graterford.

Prisoner harassed and denied property at SCI Greene: Eric Floyd reported having his life threatened by two guards and missing a box of property after being transferred to SCI Greene on August 4. Floyd stated that upon arriving at the prison, a sergeant and guard approached him and recognized him because of his criminal case, informing him that they could kill him in solitary for what he did, and “just because those half nut’s didn’t sentence you to the needle doesn’t mean you’re not going to die, you piece of shit.” Floyd fears for his life after being denied meals over six days and refused medical attention. When he asked guards why he was not being fed, one stated “because you’re not.” Floyd reports that grievances he has filed about his treatment have been ignored by the prison. The Human Rights Coalition sent a letter to Superintendent Folino informing him of the reported policy violations and human rights abuses.

Floyd was convicted in 2008 and has been in solitary confinement under administrative watch since 2010, when he began filing paperwork for his court appeal. He reports getting written up for false misconducts and kept in solitary for a long period of time in an attempt to prevent him from following through with his appeals process. Floyd was convicted of handling a murder weapon used to kill a Philadelphia police officer in 2008.

 

Around Pennsylvania

Lawsuit against guard alleges sex-abuse in SCI Pittsburgh probe: Two separate lawsuits filed against staff at SCI Pittsburgh bring to light extensive sexual and physical abuses committed by guards with the full knowledge of prison officials. The first lawsuit, filed this past July by Rodger E. Williams, describes a nine day period of sexual abuse in April 2010 by prison guard Harry Nicoletti. Williams asserts that Nicoletti raped him as well as “doled him out to other corrections officers and prison inmates.” Williams’ lawsuit also names former Superintendent of SCI-Pittsburgh, Melvin Lockett, as a defendant for his turning a blind eye to abuses he was aware his staff were committing. The second lawsuit, filed on behalf of a John Doe, also centers around prison guard Harry Nicoletti, who the complaint claims committed repeated sexual assaults against John Doe and other prisoners. Transgender and homosexual prisoners were particularly targeted, as well as those who were convicted of sexual crimes. John Doe depicts a situation of intimidation, coercion, and physical assault wielded against inmates who tried to refuse the guards or to expose the abuse. Beatings, filing of false charges against inmates, and retaliatory time in solitary confinement were common. The abuse extended to sadistic practices such as forcing inmates to watch other inmates being assaulted and ordering inmates to “defecate and urinate into inmate’s food and place defecation and other bodily fluids into inmate’s food”. John Doe’s lawsuit also appears to refer to the abuse Rodger Williams’ endured, describing how “an inmate and guards repeatedly sexually assaulted a transgender inmate over a 9-day period.” All of this transpired with the full knowledge and inaction of the prison management, including Superintendent Lockett. John Doe’s parents made repeated calls to the DOC and the Commonwealth while their son was incarcerated at SCI Pittsburgh, to no avail.

The two lawsuits come a few months after the suspension without pay, pending a grand jury investigation, of eight correctional officers at SCI Pittsburgh, including Nicoletti, as well as the replacement of four high-ranking officials, including Superintendent Melvin Lockett. All four of the latter are defendants in John Doe’s lawsuit. The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, as well as the Allegheny County Deputy District Attorney, have refused comment on the nature of the dismissal, or what the grand jury investigation pertains to. But Rodger Williams, speaking with the City Paper, says that he testified at a grand jury in Dormont and has also spoke with a state investigator about the abuse. As of now, no formal charges have been filed against any of the correctional officers or managers of the prison.
www.post-gazette.com/pg/11266/1176866-4...
www.pittsburghcitypaper.ws/gyrobase/Con...
www.post-gazette.com/pg/11265/1176794-1...

Robert King of the Angola 3 comes to Pittsburgh: Between September 18 and 21, Robert King of the Angola 3 visited Pittsburgh for four screenings of the film “In the Land of the Free,” a documentary that tells the story of King and fellow Black Panthers, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, who were framed for murder in Angola State Prison in retaliation for their political organizing. The men became know as the Angola 3 because of their location. While King is no longer incarcerated, Wallace and Woodfox continue to be held in the Louisiana state prison system for their alleged murder of a prison guard, Brent Miller. They have been held in solitary confinement for nearly forty years. King spent the last twenty-nine years of his time in prison in solitary confinement.

Robert King was released from prison in 2001 after persistent legal challenges to his conviction resulted in the case against him falling apart. King was framed for the murder of another prisoner. He reluctantly accepted a plea deal, accepting guilt on a lesser charge, so that he could leave prison and campaign on behalf of Wallace and Woodfox. King told audiences this past week not to confuse legality with morality, and emphasized that when he joined the Black Panther Party he was not simply joining an organization, but that he was joining and committing to participating in the struggle.

Amnesty International has launched a campaign calling for the immediate release of Wallace and Woodfox from solitary confinement. In a report issued in June of this year, Amnesty noted that “[l]egal aspects of the case against Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace are deeply troubling. No physical evidence linking the men to the guard’s murder has ever been found; potentially exculpatory DNA evidence has been lost; and the convictions were based on questionable inmate testimony. Over the years, documents have emerged suggesting that the main eyewitness was bribed by prison officials into giving statements against the men and that the state withheld evidence about the perjured testimony of another inmate witness. A further witness later retracted his testimony.” The criminal convictions of both are still being challenged in the courts.

For more information on the case of the Angola 3 visit angola3.org.

 

Across the Nation

Troy Davis Executed by the state of Georgia after U.S. Supreme Court rejects stay: The Georgia death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis was killed by lethal injection Wednesday, September 21 after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop his execution. Hundreds of supporters gathered outside the prison, and millions watched around the world, holding out hope as the Supreme Court weighed Davis’s last-ditch appeal for a stay of execution. Davis was convicted of the 1989 killing of an off-duty white police officer, Mark MacPhail. Since then, seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony, and there is no physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene. In the death chamber, witnesses reported Davis used his last words to maintain his innocence and wish peace upon his executioners. He was pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m. EDT, the cause listed as homicide.

Davis had always maintained that he did not murder Mark Allen MacPhail, and had narrowly missed being executed on four prior occasions. Davis appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where he was granted an evidentiary hearing that required him to prove his innocence. In that hearing last year, U.S. district Judge Moore ruled that the evidence presented, though compelling, did not prove Davis’ innocence.

The case of Troy Davis had become an issue of world concern during the course of the last decade. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter and many more international figures supported Davis. Amnesty USA took on the case and launched a campaign, including issuing of a report on the case and creating a petition that demanded the district attorney lift the death warrant on him and support clemency. The name of the campaign was “Too Much Doubt.” The petition campaign generated nearly one million signatures in support of Davis.

Davis’ sister, Martine Correia, was his lead campaigner. She waged a dual struggle to save her brother’s life and fight breast cancer for the past ten years. At a news conference the day her brother was to be executed, Correia stated:

“When I started this, working against the death penalty and trying to save my brother’s life, everyone said, because she’s his sister, she had to be lying. So, what we had to do is show it to them in black and white. And once people saw it in black and white, they became engaged in this case, and it grew, worldwide. But sometimes, just because a movement grows and the truth comes out, we still have people that are not willing to change their old ways. And I’m here to tell you today that no matter what happens this evening, the Old South will fall.

“We cannot sit idly by and watch children be plummeted into prisons and jails, not just my brother, but children of all races and colors, based on socio-economics. What we need to do is we need to let politicians know that you will not be elected if you do not do something about these atrocities that are happening in our states and in the prison and jail system. We will not sit by while you idly put our children of school age in prisons and jails. . . .

“My brother said he never thought that people would know his name across oceans, across the states, in places like Tanzania and Ethiopia, places where they kill people in the Middle East, and they’re still saying, “I am Troy Davis.” And they say it in hues of colors that my brother has never seen and languages that he can’t speak. But when they say, “I am Troy Davis,” everybody knows what that means. And I want you to understand that that doesn’t mean “I am Troy Davis from Savannah, Georgia.” That means that we can all be Troy Davis. And if we don’t have somebody to stand up for the Troy Davises, then we are no better than the people who put him there.”

Pelican Bay hunger strike to resume: On Monday, September 26th, prisoners at both Pelican Bay and Calipatria will resume the hunger strike to stop conditions of torture in the Security Housing Units where hundreds of prisoners have been warehoused for years, including more than 500 who have been held ten years or longer.

Prisoners first went on hunger strike on July 1 for nearly four weeks, until the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) agreed to begin implementing some of the prisoners’ five core demands. The strike became one of the largest prison strikes in California history–stretching across a third of the California’s prisons (at least 13 State prisons), including more than 6,600 prisoners at its height. However, the CDCR’s response has been inadequate, giving prisoners & their families false hope of substantial change and an end to torture. For a detailed summary of the CDCR’s response to the strike, and why Pelican Bay prisoners are resuming it, read “Tortured SHU Prisoners Speak Out: The Struggle Continues,” which can be accessed at prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com.

New York City Bar Association denounces solitary confinement: The New York City Bar Association’s Committee on International Human Rights has turned its sights on the American prison system and produced a report on solitary confinement in the United States. The report’s authors found that “The policy of supermax confinement, on the scale which it is currently being implemented in the United States, violates basic human rights. We believe that in many cases supermax confinement constitutes torture under international law according to international jurisprudence and cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. Constitution. The time has come to critically review and reform the widespread practice of supermax confinement.”

The report challenged the legal rationale offered by prisons and adhered to by the courts that justify solitary confinement on the grounds of security, finding that “[t]he unmitigated suffering caused by supermax confinement . . . cannot be justified by the argument that it is an effective means to deal with difficult prisoners. The issue, we believe, is not whether supermax achieves its purposes or is effective at controlling and punishing unruly inmates. Instead, the question is whether the vast archipelago of American supermax facilities, in which some prisoners are kept isolated indefinitely for years, should be tolerated as consistent with fundamental principles of justice. Even prisoners who have committed horrific crimes and atrocities possess basic rights to humane treatment under national and international law.”

story taken from solitarywatch.com

Announcements

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 info@hrcoalition.org, 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, emailhrcfedup@gmail.com 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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