PA Prison Report- February 17, 2013


News from the Inside

Family files lawsuit against Allegheny County Jail for the death of their loved one : In mid April of 2012, Derek E. Black was housed at Allegheny County Jail awaiting trial for drug charges, when he was involved in an altercation with another prisoner. After the fight he was placed in solitary confinement. From April 16 until April 30 he repeatedly requested and was denied medical care. He did not receive any medical care until he was sent to UPMC Mercy on April 30, and on May 6 he died of pulmonary conditions, which were left untreated.

Black’s family has filed a claim against Allegheny County Jail and various prison and medical staff members, which asserts that denying Black medical care was cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th amendment. According to the complaint, between April 16 until April 30 Black was coughing up blood and had severe pain in his left lung and told medical staff, but the resident nurse did not come to see him. Black was finally sent to the hospital on April 30 after complaining about chest pain for two weeks. Upon arrival at the hospital, Black went into respiratory arrest and required intubation and full resuscitative measure. He died May 6 and his death was determined to have been caused by one or more pulmonary conditions that were left untreated.

While at Allegheny County Jail, Black also reported the lack of treatment to a nurse named Sherry Anderson, who put him on number one on the jail’s priority list to receive medical attention. Anderson has filed her own lawsuit alleging that her employment has been terminated in part because she was planning to blow the whistle on the inadequate care Black received.


Retaliation and Abuse at SCI Greene: Frederick T. Ray III is a prisoner rights advocate, volunteer and author of the HRC Legal Pamphlet series. On July 24, 2012 at SCI Greene, Ray was retaliated against for protesting two days of being denied food. Sergeant Bowlin, guard Kramer and guard Smith barricaded Ray’s cell and drew a silhouette of a KKK hood in black marker on the cell door window. The klan marking remained on the window until July 27, 2012.

After filing complaints, investigations found no video evidence of the barricade because Ray’s cell was not in view of cameras. Deputy Winfield ordered Ray to be transferred to a cell with video surveillance, but he was instead transferred to another cell without surveillance. Ray was then informed he would be transferred again on August 1, 2012.

On August 1, Sergeant Bowlin filed a misconduct report alleging Ray assaulted female officer Loar with an unknown liquid substance. Even though Ray was confined behind a steel door that prevented any contact with guards, no evidence could disprove the misconduct because the cell was not under video surveillance.

Reportedly refusing to move out of his cell, Ray was escorted to H-Block without incident by Sergeant Bowlin and a 9-man extraction team. They placed Ray face down on the ground and Sergeant Bowlin strip searched him while female nurse Parchinsky photographed. Once given a suicide smock to wear Ray was placed in an infested cell previously inhabited by a severely mentally ill prisoner. He was then denied water, toothpaste, toothbrush, clothing, toilet paper, mattress, pillows and soap in a cell smeared with urine and feces.

All of Ray’s property and legal documentation were removed from his old cell without any confiscation receipt being provided. At 1:15 in the morning an unknown officer taped a misconduct report issued by Sergeant Bowlin alleging assault and related offenses, including cost assessment of the clothes cut off Ray during his strip search. Bowlin then placed Ray on a behavior modified meal program and denied him meals from August 2 to August 6. On August 6 at 5:00 in the morning Ray spoke with shift commander Captain Oddo about the inhumane conditions and was given a mattress, pillow and a bar of soap.

On August 7 2012 Ray was summoned before Hearing Examiner Nunez for the misconduct report filed by Sergeant Bowlin. Because the misconduct was taped to the wall outside his cell, the hearing was postponed until the August 9 to allow Ray time to prepare a defense. Ray’s requests for relief from the infested cell were denied and his behavior modified meals continued. On August 9 Nunez denied requests for witnesses and video evidence and sanctioned Ray guilty of all charges. Later that day Lieutenant Grego informed Ray he would be transferred to SCI Albion. On August 10, 2012 Ray was transferred to SCI Albion.

Frederick T. Ray III will be filing a civil action complaint to the Federal Department of Justice to put an end to the perpetual and pervasive atmosphere of abuse and racism at SCI Greene. Ray was confined inhumanely without a mattress, pillow, bedding, water, toothpaste, toothbrush, clothing, shower, mail, yard, sleep (24 hour lighting), cell cleaning, soap to wash his hands after urinating and defecating, meals, paper, pen, envelopes, toilet paper, personal and legal property in a cell smeared with urine and feces.


Retaliation against human rights defender at SCI Albion: Prison guards in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at SCI Albion attacked jailhouse lawyer and human rights defender Andre Jacobs with pepper spray on January 30 during a cell extraction. Multiple reports received by the Human Rights Coalition stated that Jacobs was placed in a cell without running water, property, or clothing, only being allowed a smock to wear.

The attack came after an earlier incident where Jacobs and several other prisoners in the solitary confinement unit protested being deprived of rice during one of their meals. Lt. Sissen placed Jacobs on food loaf in retaliation for his participation in the protest. Food loaf consists of a mashed together log of food that is given to prisoners as a form of punishment. Reports from throughout Pennsylvania prisons indicate that the food loaf is nauseating and not edible, and that it is routinely used to retaliate against prisoners protesting abusive or substandard conditions.

Phone calls on Jacobs' behalf can be made to SCI Albion, Superintendent Harlow at 814-756-5778.


Courtroom Beat

Federal appeals court reinstates inmate gender reassignment lawsuit: The US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reinstated a lawsuit by a Virginia prisoner at the end of January seeking gender reassignment surgery. The court ruled that Ophelia Azriel De’lonta, an inmate suffering from gender identity disorder (GID), has sufficiently stated a claim that the Virginia Department of Correction (VDOC) may have been deliberately indifferent to her serious medical need by refusing to evaluate her for surgery. Previously, the Fourth Circuit held that the VDOC had wrongfully prevented De’lonta from receiving any GID treatment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In Monday’s ruling, the court clarified its holding:

“We hold only that De’lonta’s Eighth Amendment claim is sufficiently plausible to survive screening pursuant to 28 USC § 1915A. We do not decide today the merits of De’lonta’s claim. Nor, for that matter, do we mean to suggest what remedy De’lonta would be entitled to should she prevail. In our view, the answers to those questions have no bearing on whether De’lonta has stated a claim that Appellees have been deliberately indifferent to her serious medical need by refusing to evaluate her for surgery, consistent with the Benjamin Standards of Care.”

Following De’lonta’s first suit, the VDOC provided De’lonta with GID treatment consisting of regular psychological counseling and hormone therapy. De’lonta has also been permitted to dress and live like a woman to the full extent permitted by the VDOC. However, she has not been allowed to seek evaluation for gender reassignment surgery. The case has been remanded for further proceedings consistent with the court’s findings.

Although an increasing number of prisons recognize GID as a compelling medical ailment that requires treatment, sometimes to the extent of gender reassignment surgery, the issue is still contentious. In September the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that an inmate serving life without parole must be granted gender reassignment surgery as it is the only possible treatment for her GID. In March the US Supreme Court declined to rule on a similar case, letting stand a lower court decision that found hormone therapy for transgender inmates to be medically necessary.

Story taken from Jurist


Sending juveniles to prison for life unconstitutional, federal judge rules:  A federal judge ruled unconstitutional Michigan laws that send juveniles convicted of murder to prison for life and ordered that the 350 juvenile lifers in the state have a chance at parole. Judge John Corbett O’Meara cited the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, which opined that juveniles can’t be treated as adults, and as such, can’t be sentenced as adults to life behind bars. Judge O’Meara, in disagreement with the Michigan Court of Appeals, held that this decision should be applied retroactively, citing legal and moral reasoning. Attorney Deborah Labelle, who filed a lawsuit against the state in November 2010 on behalf of several prisoners who were sentenced as juveniles, views the decision as a big victory.

The Michigan Court of Appeals and Attorney General Bill Schuette, continue to hold that the ruling should not apply retroactively, and are considering options for appeal. Judge O’Meara’s decision has many positive implications for people convicted as juveniles looking for a re-sentence, as now, both the U.S. Supreme Court and a federal judge have voiced their objection to sentencing juveniles to life in prison.

(more at



Philly area:

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, 6-8pm), or call us at 267-293-9169, email:, or visit our website at

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: 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!