Thursday, April 06, 2017

"FROM BEHIND BARS" - Exclusive! Solitary Confinement Used to Silence Prisoners and Cover Up Abuse, Part 73

Image from Mother Jones
In the previous issue in the series, "From Behind Bars" , in a letter dated January 17th, our pen pal wrote about filing a grievance against prison doctor, Dr. Valletta, who had denied him an evaluation by a specialist at UCONN Medical Center.  Dr. Valletta was allowed to investigate himself in this matter, which is against administrative directives, (not to mention common sense).

The grievance was kicked back.  It was refiled by our pen pal, who told the powers that be if it was kicked back again he would bring it to the attention of the Commissioner and DoC Director of Health Services.  It was again kicked back (the grievance) but he was granted an evaluation "sometime in the future".

Nevertheless, his wife wrote to the Commissioner and the Director of Health Services, but her letter was shrugged off.  Our pen pal wrote them back, saying the matter was being presented to the State Senate along with a recommendation for an over-site committee, since there is no integrity in the inmate remedy process.

In his letter of January 17th, he talks of another inmate who suffers from Raynaud's Syndrome (Phenomenon), which affects the vascular system, particularly the extremities, where factors such as cold weather or stress lead to spasms of blood vessels, cause a decrease in blood flow.  He requires extra blankets, gloves, hats and so forth, to keep warm and which are considered reasonable accommodation, under the American's with Disabilities Act.  He was given these things at Northern Correctional Facility, but when he was transferred to Garner, they were withheld from him, even though under the ADA, each facility is supposed to honor these accommodations. This is a matter of federal law and the Assistant US Attorney is looking into it.

After two years of trying for a medical habeas, a pretrial hearing is scheduled for April thirteenth.  Our pen pal has become quite the jail house lawyer and is representing himself in this matter.

With all the trouble our pen pal has caused, he expected retaliation or at least to be moved.  Inmates are not given notice when moved; a Corrections Officer (C/O) shows up with a box and tells the prisoner to pack up.  This throws people off and "disorients" them.

Not long after his letter of January 17th, as he predicted, our pen pal was moved.  In the middle of the night.  Without notice.

Yesterday morning's issue of CT News Junkie leads off with a story, "Bill Codifying Solitary Confinement Practices Advances".  The bill is SB 7302, the stated purpose of which is "To codify procedures concerning isolated confinement, provide for " greater transparency concerning isolated confinement and provide training and wellness initiatives for correctional staff."

The CTNJ article goes on to say, "The bill states that isolated confinement shall be used only to protect against a threat of imminent physical harm to correctional staff or other inmates . . . no inmate shall be assigned to solitary for more than 15 days without a hearing . . . correctional officials would need to show why continued isolation is necessary.  And, "According to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, prolonged solitary confinement is torture".

Our pen pal was in the habit of calling his wife and/or mother from prison on a daily or near daily basis.  After not hearing from him for a week, his wife, concerned for his welfare, called the attorney representing her husband in his criminal habeas, Attorney Brown.

Even though this matter is outside the scope of what he was hired to do, Attorney Brown contacted prison officials, (under the auspices of needing to see him about the criminal habeas) and was allowed to speak with his client.  He learned that our pen pal had been placed in solitary confinement because he was under investigation,  He was under investigation because his wife had allegedly written to him giving him information on how to get drugs and that she, too was under investigation!

While in solitary, a prisoner is not allowed to have visitors or to even make phone calls (which makes no sense).  They are supposed to be able send and receive mail, but his wife has not even had a letter from him.

Mrs. P. then contacted the prison and was told by the "intel" officer that he could not talk about the investigation and refused to give her any further details, even though she is his wife and has his power of attorney.

This move by prison officials is pure retaliation, not to mention mental abuse; not just of the prisoner, but of his wife and mother!  Not only are prisoners placed in solitary confinement denied visits and phone calls, they cannot be allowed outside the prison to attend non-criminal hearings!

This effectively quashes, at least for the foreseeable future, our pen pal's medical habeas, for which he has fought for two long years!  It means that the DoC will escape scrutiny for their systemic neglect and abuses and my friend (and others) will continue to needlessly suffer at the hands of a system that is out of control and in the hands of sadists.

Because of our pen pal's tenacious nature, his refusal to give up his quest for justice and basic human dignity, he has been culled from the herd; singled out for retribution by corrupt officials in an effort to silence him and protect themselves from being exposed for their crimes against humanity.

This is not an isolated incident.  I have another friend who is a Corrections Officer.  He went into the job thinking that as a Christian, he could do some good in helping turn around people's lives, bringing them into the hands of God and returning them to the community as honest and productive citizens.

He quickly learned otherwise.  He found that any C/O who shows overt kindness to a prisoner is looked upon as "soft"; ridiculed and ostracized by his fellow officers.  He witnessed many abuses over the years.  Try as I might, I am unable to get him to come forward and talk about his experiences.  He fears retaliation not only from fellow officers, but also from prison officials and senior officers, withing the system.

My C/O friend clearly suffers from PTSD because of his experiences.  The CTNJ article also addresses this.  In the article, Brian Anderson, lobbyist for Council 4 AFSCME, which represents some 5,000 correctional workers, states that he supports part of the legislation Codifying Solitary Confinement Practices that provides for increased training and wellness opportunities for correction officers, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a particular problem for correctional employees,” Anderson said.  I can't help but wonder if PTSD is not also a problem for many prisoners, once they are released.

The punishment for committing a crime is the loss of freedom; incarceration.  Deprivation, degradation and abuse are not part of punishment.  It is not the duty of corrections officials to inflict further suffering and abuse upon prisoners.  Nor is it their duty to judge.  As every one should know, untold thousands have been wrongfully convicted, some for the most heinous of crimes.  It is not the correction official's duty to strip prisoners of the most basic of human rights; their human dignity.  See Innocence Project.

The prison system in this state and likely every other state in the union, fails to do its duty to rehabilitate (correct) prisoners and prepare them to re-enter the community.  All such maltreatment does is harden criminals and make them cynical and resentful of our society.  It returns them to society as broken people with little or no hope for a decent and respectable future.  This only serves to assure that far too many will return to a life of crime.  Just look at the recidivism rates; they speak for themselves.

The Department of Correction needs to be corrected.

(Stay tuned to The Middletown Insider; later this week there will be another expose of an even more shocking and graphic nature.)  That story can now be seen, here.

William Boylan, Editor in Chief

1 comment:

  1. This is the edited text from a letter sent from Mrs. P to the DoC commissioner.

    Mrs. P.
    123 Main St.
    Anytown Ct. 06000

    January 16, 2017

    Dear Commissioner Semple,

    I am writing to you regarding a letter that I originally sent dated December 19, 2016, and received by your office December 21, 2016. A copy of this letter is included and the supporting documents sent with the first letter should be on file with your office. To this date I have not had a response from your office.

    I did receive a voicemail January 5, 2017 from ADA Coordinator Colleen Gallagher regarding the letter indicating a follow up call the following Monday, January 9, 2017 to discuss my husband XXXX XXXX. As of this date I still have not received a call from her. The letter had nothing to do with a ADA issue.

    Again, I would like to discuss the unethical, blatant disregard of the process integrity of the inmate grievance procedure. I am sure that my husband would be open to discuss this with you himself if needed. I also would expect that there would be no intentional retaliation for my husband or myself by bringing this to your attention.

    I thank you for your time and your timely response.

    Mrs. P.


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