News from the Inside
Intimidation of prisoners, Restraint chair used as torture in Camp Hill Special Management Unit: David Iverson, a prisoner currently housed at SCI Pittsburgh, recently completed a 1983 Civil Complaint for being tortured in a restraint chair by guards in the Special Management Unit (SMU) at SCI Camp Hill in 2011. A restraint chair, also known as the “devil’s chair,” is a device that completely immobilizes a prisoner by strapping down their arms, legs, and torso. According to DOC policy, the restraint chair is to be used only to subdue prisoners who pose an immediate threat to other prisoners, guards, themselves, or state property, but many reports reveal that it is often used as a tool of punishment and retaliation against prisoners, inflicting unnecessary pain, torture, injuries, and in some cases across the nation, death.
After refusing to accept meals following retaliatory food tampering by guards, Iverson was put in the chair on October 11, 2011 by Lieutenant Flowers and her extraction team to be force-fed. After the force-feeding was completed “without incident,” Iverson was left in the restraint chair for eight hours. He was not given a single break to use the bathroom or stretch or exercise his limbs for the entire eight hours of being confined to the chair.
David reports that the restraints were put on so tightly that they cut into his flesh and stopped blood circulation; after two hours of being completely immobilized in this condition, he was in so much pain that he lost consciousness three times.
Every fifteen minutes as a guard made security rounds, Iverson cried out and pled to be exercised and was ignored. A neighboring prisoner was forced to witness this torture, and notified guards several times that Iverson had not been let out for exercise, despite the mandate by DOC Policy
that a prisoner held in a restraint chair must be allowed to exercise every two hours. The neighboring prisoner was told by a guard to mind his own business, and told “I can care less if that nigger dies.”
Iverson filed administrative grievances and appeals up to the highest level, and the most he got was an admission that some of the guards’ acts were a “miscommunication.” This “miscommunication” was repeated the following day on October 2, 2011, when Iverson was placed in the restraint chair again for 8 hours, allowed to exercise his limbs one time without being released from the chair, despite unbearable pain and strain on his back.
Iverson is currently being housed in the Secure Special Needs Unit (SSNU) at SCI Pittsburgh, where he is receiving mental health treatment as a result of the abuse and torture of being put in the restraint chair. After being tortured, Iverson has suffered a deterioration of mental health, resulting in weight loss, depression, anxiety, suicidal attempts, violent outbursts, paranoia, hopelessness, loss of sleep, and more. He is now taking a daily psych medication. Iverson also suffers ongoing physical affects incurred by the restraint chair; he has sustained back and knee injuries, and crushed/damaged nerves in his left wrist, resulting in a complete loss of feeling in his left hand.
Iverson says, “I am trying my best to overcome, but it’s really hard not to act out, feeling that all members of the DOC are now out to cause me pain.” HRC has received numerous reports in the last year alone of abuse, retaliation, and neglect in the Special Management Unit of SCI Camp Hill.
Despite a lack of resources and his recovery from trauma, Iverson intends to work toward banning the use of restraint chairs in Pennsylvania with his current suit.
Also in Camp Hill’s Special Management Unit, Anthony Bussey reports that guards in the unit have threatened him and that prison officials have refused to intervene. In a September 8 letter, Bussey charges several guards with having threatened him physically with “hands, feet.. night stick and taser”, which they “openly wield around like the Wild Wild West.” Bussey specifies that on August 29, Sergeant cook came to his door and threatened him, stating “You need to come out of the cell, pussy, you won’t last”. Cook has also threatened to extend Bussey’s sentence by bringing new charges against him. Bussey reports that these incidents have caused him to fear for his safety and that supervisors on the unit have refused to intervene or order him separated from abusive staff.
HRC encourages readers of the Prison Report to call PA DOC officials and demand an end to the abuse of men in Camp Hill’s Special Management Unit:
Kathleen Zweirzyna, SCI Camp Hill Superintendent (717) 737-4531
John Wetzel, Secretary (head official) of PA DOC (717) 728-4109
Last minute appeal seeks to halt execution of Terry Williams: Lawyers for death-sentenced Pennsylvania prisoner Terry Williams, who is scheduled to be killed by lethal injection next week on October 3, presented a Philadelphia court of common pleas judge with newly discovered evidence of prosecutorial misconduct in a last-minute effort to save Williams’ life on Friday, September 21.
Williams was sentenced to death for the 1984 killing of Amos Norwood. Williams accepts blame for killing Norwood, but his attorneys argue that crucial mitigating material was never turned over to the defense — evidence that Norwood was accused of sexually abusing young teenage boys in his congregation, and was paying Williams for sex before the murder. Williams was just 18 years old at the time of the killing.
Last week the Philadelphia court heard evidence that the prosecutor in the case, Andrea Foulkes, had suppressed evidence that Norwood had sexually abused another child whom she interviewed at the time. The prosecution’s case at the time was built upon the theory that Norwood was killed as part of a robbery gone wrong.
Marc Draper, a key witness in the original trial and Williams’ admitted accomplice in the murder, also took the stand last week, testifying that prosecutors and police suppressed statements he made shortly after his arrest that Norwood had had sex with Williams, and that Williams’ motive for the murder was rage, not robbery.
Evidence that Norwood had raped Williams could have led to a lesser sentence, as it did in another homicide that Williams was prosecuted for earlier in 1984. Foulkes had also prosecuted Williams for killing Herbert Hamilton, a 51-year-old man. In that case, a jury found Williams guilty of third-degree murder because of evidence that Hamilton was a sexual predator who preyed on underage teenage boys, including Williams.
In a clemency petition that was rejected by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons Williams’ lawyers have stated that, “Terry’s acts of violence have, alas, an explanation of the worst sort: enveloped by anger and self-hatred, Terry lashed out and killed two of the men who sexually abused him and caused him so much pain.”
Lending support to Williams’ clemency petition are 22 former prosecutors and judges, 34 law professors, 40 mental-health professionals, and more than 36 religious leaders, including Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
But Williams’ strongest asset may be an extraordinary affidavit by his victim’s widow. Mamie Norwood, 75, describes a personal transformation from anger and resentment to forgiveness.
At first, Norwood wrote, her husband’s murder was "unbearable for me. But several years ago, after much prayer and self-reflection, I found the strength and courage to forgive Terry Williams.
“I do not wish to see Terry Williams executed,” Norwood wrote. “His execution would go against my Christian faith and my belief system. He is worthy of forgiveness, and I am at peace with my decision to forgive him and have been for many years. I wish to see his life spared.”
Federal judge rules South Dakota prison tobacco ban infringes on religious rights:
A judge for the US District Court for the District of South Dakota on Wednesday ruled
that South Dakota’s ban on the use of tobacco in prisons infringes on the religious rights of Native American inmates. The Native American Council of Tribes (NACT
), along with two individual plaintiffs, brought suit under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIP
) in 2009 against the Department of Corrections (DOC
) seeking injunctive relief in order to use tobacco during religious ceremonies at the prison. Native Americans had been permitted to use tobacco during ceremonies at the prison prior to 2009 when the DOC
enacted a policy banning tobacco in prison facilities. The DOC
contends that the tobacco ban was necessary for security reasons. Judge Karen Schreier granted the requested injunctive relief, holding that the ban substantially burdens the Native American prisoners’ ability to exercise religion and that the government failed to provide a compelling governmental interest for the total ban on tobacco products. Schreier suggested that the inmates and officials confer in order to determine a narrowly tailored injunction.
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, or visit our website at http://www.hrcoalition.org./
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/Fed Up! in Pittsburgh, email: email@example.com
or call 412-654-9070.
This is 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!