In this edition: Invasive Search Policies at SCI Muncy; Prisoner Transferred After Numerous Phone Calls to Prison; 40 years in solitary confinement for two of the Angola 3 and more...
Petition to End the 20+ years of Solitary Confinement Torture of Russell Maroon Shoats reached 2414 signatures. Please sign here if you have not signed the petition yet and share widely. Thank You!
News from the Inside
Invasive Search Policies at SCI Muncy: Dana Lomax-Williams reports from SCI Muncy, that in order to work in the dietary department, she is subjected to a full body search before each shift. She reported many women have quit work because of invasive search policies carried out by male guards and shift managers. Lomax-Williams approached different higher ups, asking if it was normal to have her breast and clitoris rubbed by dietary shift supervisor, Rena, off camera. Lt. Siscely, Major Fanz and Capt. Powley confirmed this was correct behavior for the guards.
Lomax-Williams reported being reluctant to file a grievance regarding the searches, because she was told by staff she would be put in the hole. She did write former Secretary Smeal of the Department of Corrections and got a response from prison internal security. She was told by Capt. Powley that central office was displeased because she had caused them a great deal of paperwork. Women must choose between being violated and getting work experience. When Lomax-Williams complained, she was taken off her shift. She indicated that making a small amount of money and going through the searches was the choice she had to make at this time.
Prisoner Transferred After Numerous Phone Calls to Prison: Prisoner Alfred Mayo has been transferred from SCI Frackville to SCI Dallas after numerous calls to Frackville and Central Office by his mother, girlfriend and HRC volunteers, demanding that he be transferred. Alfred Mayo’s health has been deteriorating rapidly over the last few months and he wanted to be moved to a prison with an infirmary so that he could be properly treated. Over the last few months Mayo has had problems with his kidney function and has lost around 80 pounds and suffered from light headedness and loss of apatite. Even after learning of the seriousness of Mayo’s condition, he was still deprived of regular blood testing and proper diet, which would help prevent his condition from worsening. Mayo’s girlfriend told HRC that she was told he will also be getting taken to an outside hospital to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment. Mayo has filed a medical neglect claim for the inadequate treatment he received while at Frackville. He currently remains in the RHU in Dallas, because of fabricated misconducts he received while at Frackville by Correctional Officer Schaeffer. HRC has received dozens of reports from prisoners who were housed or are currently housed in the RHU at Frackville about racism, abuse, and harassment by Officer Schaeffer.
Across the Nation
40 years in solitary confinement for two of the Angola 3:
April 17 marked the fortieth anniversary of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox being placed in solitary confinement in the Louisiana prison system, where they remain to this day. The grim milestone was noted by human rights advocates, including Amnesty International, who has taken up the cause of the Angola 3
, initiating a petition drive that has gathered more than 65,000 signatures calling for the release of Wallace and Woodfox from solitary confinement. The other member of the Angola 3, Robert King, who was released from prison eleven years ago after his wrongful conviction was reversed, described the experience of solitary confinement in an interview with Democracy Now
: “If the soul cry, if you could hear the soul cry, you know, if you’re in that type of condition, you can feel it. You can hear the soul cry, or know literal tears. You’re in a position and a condition, circumstances that you will never be released from.”
In an article published by Mother Jones
, James Ridgeway and Jean Casella of Solitary Watch
wrote: "Wallace and Woodfox were first thrown into the hole on April 17, 1972, following the killing of Brent Miller, a young prison guard. The men contend that they were targeted by prison authorities and convicted of murder not based on the actual evidence—which was dubious at best—but because they were members of the Black Panther Party’s prison chapter, which was organizing against horrendous conditions at Angola. This political affiliation, they say, also accounted for their seemingly permanent stay in solitary.
For four decades, the men have spent at least 23 hours a day in cells measuring 6 × 9 feet. These days, they are allowed out one hour a day to take a shower or a stroll along the cell block. Three days a week, they may use that hour to exercise alone in a fenced yard. Wallace is now 70; Woodfox is 65. Their lawyers argue that both have endured physical injury and “severe mental anguish and other psychological damage” from living most of their adult lives in lockdown. According to medical reports submitted to the court, the men suffer from arthritis, hypertension, and kidney failure, as well as memory impairment, insomnia, claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression. Even the psychologist brought in by the state confirmed these findings."
Bias Law Used to Move a Man Off Death Row: On Friday, April 20, a North Carolina judge ordered that Marcus Robinson’s death sentence be changed to life without parole after determining that racial bias played a significant factor in the death penalty being imposed in his case. Robinson’s was the first death sentence to be reduced following the passage of North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act, which provides that future defendants and current death row inmates may present evidence, including statistical patterns, suggesting that race played a major role in their being sentenced to death in efforts to reverse the death sentences in their cases.
Judge Gregory A. Weeks of Cumberland County Superior Court declared his finding that “race was a materially, practically and statistically significant factor” in the jury selection process not only in Mr. Robinson’s trial but in trials across the county and state. Prosecutors said they would appeal the decision in the hope that the government will be given legal license to execute Robinson.
Friday’s decision came down two days before the 25th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court decision McCleskey vs. Kemp, in which the court ruled 5 to 4 that statistical evidence of a significant racial disparity in death sentences in Georgia was not sufficient reason to overturn a Georgia man’s death verdict. The Supreme Court expressed concerns that permitting challenges to executions based on systemic racial bias would call into question the very nature of the criminal legal system. In his dissenting opinion, Justice Brennan wrote “The Court next states that its unwillingness to regard petitioner’s evidence as sufficient  based in part on the fear that recognition of McCleskey’s claim would open the door to widespread challenges to all aspects of criminal sentencing. Taken on its face, such a statement seems to suggest a fear of too much justice.”
Philly area: Wednesdays are Write On! Prison Letter Writing Night at the LAVA space at 4134 Lancaster, 7-9 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 Wednesday of each month, 5-7pm), or call us at 215-921-3491, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
, or visit our website at http://www.hrcoalition.org./
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: email@example.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.
Keep Up the Fight!