The latest edition of The Movement, HRC Philly’s online and print newsletter, is now available for download.
Prisoner Seeks Representation as Civil Suit Moves Forward: A civil lawsuit filed by Phillip Fantone for medical neglect and human rights violations in Pennsylvania prisons continues to move forward, overcoming large hurdles. In 2011, Fantone used a prisoner self-help litigation manual to file his original complaint for medical neglect and deliberate indifference by medical staff and administrators at SCI Fayette towards his ongoing disability of spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease. Fantone’s amended complaint brought in other members of the medical and prison staff that worked at Fayette from 2007 to 2009 including Micheal Herbik MD, Superintendent Brian Coleman, RN Robert Tretinik, acting psychiatrist Peter Saavaedra and Darla Cowden, physician’s assistant.
After obtaining access to his medical file in January 2012, Fantone was able to supplement his complaint with documentation to show each staff members’ personal involvement and culpable mind. He was allowed to proceed in forma pauperis by the courts, meaning some of the basic fees for filing his complaint were waived because he could not pay them. The defendants’ motion to dismiss filed by Cowden, Herbik, Tretinik and Coleman was denied by a district judge and remanded back to the magistrate judge in January 2012.
Fantone was housed in general population and in solitary for 2 years at SCI Fayette where he attempted to get medical intervention for spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease, asking for access to pain medication and the use of a wheelchair. Fantone saw two physical therapists, one at Graterford and one at Fayette in 2005 and 2006, whom could not help, and whom recommended that he see a specialist. His first MRI was done in 2004 and the doctor then recommended that he get surgery to hold up his spine where cartilege had decreased and nerve passages had narrowed causing constant pain. After his second MRI in 2009, prison medical staff would not approve his access to a specialist or surgery.
Fantone wrote the Human Rights Coalition over the past three years, describing constant pain and the paperwork he was filing against the administration seeking medical care. He was paroled in December of 2009 to a half way house in Pittsburgh. Within a month, he had lost function in his left leg, bladder control, was admitted to Mercy hospital, had an emergency surgery and had a rod and screws put into his back. The surgeon indicated that his condition could have led to permanent loss of leg function and a catheter had he not undergone emergency surgery.
Fantone was denied appointment of counsel by the courts for his current lawsuit. The judge ruled that, “Though district courts recognize that when “[a]n indigent Plaintiff with a claim of arguable merit is incapable of presenting his or her case, serious consideration should be given to appointing counsel,” other barriers outweighed this. District courts have no authority to compel counsel to represent an indigent inmate, there is a lack of funding to pay appointed counsel due to constraints of the prison litigation reform act, and a lack of willingness by lawyers to take individual cases without compensation. If a prisoner were to be successful in winning a lawsuit in court, the court appointed attorney would only receive 1/4 the amount of funding had that person not been incarcerated at the time they filed. Fantone was reincarcerated on a parole violation in 2010 and is currently housed at SCI Pittsburgh.
New Report on the Extrajudicial Killings of Black People by police forces: On Monday, July 19, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement released a major report documenting the extrajudicial killings of black men, women, and children by police or associated forces. The report found that in 2012 a black person has been killed every forty hours by police along with a smaller number of security guards and self-appointed vigilantes such as George Zimmerman, the Florida man who is facing trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin earlier this year.
Acknowledging that these killings “are systemic – meaning they are embedded in institutional racism and national oppression,” the report lays bare the falsity of corporate media coverage that "sings the praises of the police and read from the same script that denounces the alleged “thuggery” of the deceased." Study of the killings documented in the report instead reveal “false, implausible and inconsistent claims by police” and other inconsistencies that portray a reality of wanton disregard for black life.
This violence is analyzed within a broader policy of racist repression that represents “only one aspect of the U.S. states comprehensive containment strategies to exploit Black people and smother resistance. To contain the upsurge of the Black Liberation movement of the 1960’s and 70’s and protect the system of white supremacy the institutional forces of racism have worked through government to destabilize the Black community via community divestment, massive employment discrimination, outsourcing, gentrification and other forms of economic dislocation.”
Stating that “the use of force against Black people is standard practice in the United States” that is “woven into the very fabric of the society,” the report calls on the Black community to “organize for its own self-defense” and for the building of “a broad, mass movement capable of forcing the government to enact transformative legislation.” The core demand sought is for a “National Plan of Action for Racial Justice to eliminate institutional racism and advance the struggle for self-determination.”
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./
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: 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!