Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Iowa Prisons

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www.prisoncensorship.info is a media institution run by the Maoist Internationalist Ministry of Prisons. Here we collect and publicize reports of conditions behind the bars in U.$. prisons. Information about these incidents rarely makes it out of the prison, and when it does it is extremely rare that the reports are taken seriously and published. This historical record is important for documenting patterns of abuse, and also for informing people on the streets about what goes on behind the bars.

We hope this information will inspire people to take action and join the fight against the criminal injustice system. While we may not be able to immediately impact this particular instance of abuse, we can work to fundamentally change the system that permits and perpetuates it. The criminal injustice system is intimately tied up with imperialism, and serves as a tool of social control on the homeland, particularly targeting oppressed nations.

[Abuse] [Iowa State Penitentiary] [Iowa]
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Staff Abuse and Retaliate Against Report Writers

It has become very common here at Fort Madison [Iowa State Penitentiary] for any harassment by staff to either go un-addressed and/or covered up. Moreover, it has been made very clear any attempt by prisoners to report any harassment or any other misconduct by staff will result in retaliation by staff either physically, sent to lockup for some unexplained reason or in most cases prisoners are shipped out to a federal prison and continually moved around to prevent the inmate from filing any additional complaints. This treatment has worked on 99.9% of the prison population in Fort Madison for years and prevented them from reporting any harassment, abuse or any other mistreatment.

On the other hand, some capitves that are continually provoked are forced to physically retaliate against staff that abuse their power. I personally feel any harassment or physical altercation between staff and offenders is never the answer. Thus I've been trying my damnedest not to do so. Instead I felt it's very important for me to report my situation to the outside world. By doing so I'm hoping the necessary authority outside these walls will get word and answer our pleas for assistance to bring an end to staff's mistreatment, thus hopefully preventing further altercations between staff and offenders.

For the past six months I have been repeatedly verbally and physically harassed by certain staff. I've repeatedly properly reported each incident to all necessary staff and the Ombudsman's office. However reporting such misconduct by staff has only resulted in retaliation by staff including sexual harassment, and may result in me going to lock up in the future. Nevertheless, this will not stop me from reporting these very serious issues that need to be addressed.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Mental Health] [Iowa]
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Psychological Torture in Iowa

It's after midnight and I am exhausted but the racing thoughts in my head will not allow my body to sleep. My anxiety is at its absolute worst and therefore my insomnia is at its worst.

As a result of having to try to cope with these almost crippling conditions without medication, my depression is also quite severe. Most days I have to force myself to get out of bed. (Keep in mind that when I'm "in bed", I'm not there because I'm sleeping but rather because I cannot find a reason to get up.) When I finally do get up I'm in a constant state of anxiety and panic. I've lived every day of the last year and a half on the verge of a complete nervous and emotional breakdown due to my untreated insomnia and anxiety/panic disorder.

Because of "DOC policy" the medications that were successfully treating these conditions prior to me coming to prison in 2009 were taken from me. The only medication I'm allowed is Cymbalta, which treats my depression.

I have complained to psychology staff and my doctor here that I need these medications back as my mental health is extremely unstable due to not having them. I mentioned to them that it is not unusual for me - since not having these meds - to only get 1-2 hours of sleep a night. I also told them about the panic attacks I've been having. (Anyone who's ever suffered from one of these can tell you just how terrifying they can be.) I've told them all of this and they still refuse to provide me with adequate medications to treat my mental illnesses. Prisoners here do not receive any type of individual therapy to help them cope with such illnesses either.

As a result of IDOC's negligence to my mental health I have suffered immensely. I was forced to drop out of a potentially beneficial academic program as a result of my untreated anxiety and the fact that I could not attend some days because I was not getting enough sleep at night due to my untreated insomnia. When my conditions got so bad that I was contemplating suicide they locked me in a tiny cell with no clothes and no blankets or a bed to sleep on and they left me there for about 2 weeks - the first time. They required me to eat with my hands and would not allow any tangible items in the cell with me, not even a soft covered Bible. Now lets be reasonable here, how am I going to harm myself with a soft covered Bible - or any soft covered book for that matter? They also forced me to let them examine my anus and genital area 3 times per day because they thought I may have had something hidden up there even though I never once left the cell and the door never opened once. It was closed and I never had any type of contact with anyone. Keep in mind someone was outside the cell monitoring me through a fairly large window 24/7.

I believe they secretly thought that keeping me in there for so long under such harsh and inhumane conditions would discourage me from bothering them with my mental health problems anymore as I heard one of the pigs say to the prisoner they appointed to monitor me that "if he wants to keep plain' these fuckin' games he can just stay in there awhile." When he used the word "games" he was referring to me becoming suicidal as a result of their negligence to my mental health needs.

I was recently told by a psychology staff that they could not afford to give me the medications I need because of the recent budget cuts here in this state. I write this letter because I figured people should know that Governor Culver, who claims to so concerned about the safety of Iowa's children, is also the one responsible for the budget cuts that put a barrier between prisoners and adequate mental health treatment which would help all mentally ill prisoners, including pedophiles and other sex offenders, be better rehabilitated and prepared to live as responsible citizens upon release.

So I'll close this letter by posing a few questions. What is more threatening, pedophiles or mentally unstable pedophiles? A domestic abuser or a mentally unstable domestic abuser? A drug dealer who sells drugs to kids or a mentally unstable drug dealer who has a history of selling drugs to kids? I think I've made my point.


MIM(Prisons) responds: As we've written in previous articles about mental health, we look primarily to the environment as a cause for mental health problems like this prisoner describes. It is no wonder that s/he is suffering problems, as s/he is subjected to the torture of isolation that has a documented history of bringing mental health issues. Under imperialism we are forced to accept band-aids for mental health problems, and so many people end up using drugs to bring symptoms under control. As we explained in ULK 13, "As with most problems we face, we can find answers to mental health problems through dialectical materialism and in having the correct political line. In the 1950s the Chinese eliminated the more backwards psychological practices in their society and replaced them with ones focused on getting individuals to connect with and help shape the material world through applying dialectical materialism. Mental health care, like much of Chinese society under Mao, emphasized the importance of both self-reliance and collective help, with the understanding that patients can fight their diseases and lead productive lives in the new society."

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [Mt Pleasant Correctional] [Iowa]
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Control units used to torture mentally ill prisoners

I received your pamphlet on control units and the introductory letter. I enjoyed it and am in favor of any campaign calling for the abolition of such cruelty and torture as is inflicted by the DOC's control units.

These torture chambers are also used to monitor mentally ill prisoners who are at risk of suicide. They force the man (I don't like to use the term "inmate" if it can be avoided - we're human beings who have worth and value. Words such as "inmate," "offender," and any other titles that have been given to incarcerated individuals are very degrading as they have very negative stigmas attached to them) to strip completely naked and put on a suicide smock, which is basically comparable to wearing a cardboard gown. They do not allow the person any tangible items whatsoever to be in the cell with them - not even a bible or some other book - until a psychiatrist determines that he/she is no longer a danger to hself.

Now, let's think about this: How is somebody going to kill themselves with a book? Now, if one wants to play the "what if" game, they could ask, "what if they got a hold of a hard cover book and bashed their heads in with it until they were dead while the guy who gets paid to sit right outside the cell and watch them through a window 24 hours a day takes his eyes off them for a split second for the purpose of looking at the booger on his finger before flicking it?" (And trust me, this is the kind of ludicrous crap these DOC pigs use to justify some of their absurd policies.) But this problem is very easily solved; don't give them hard cover books! Give them soft-cover books.

Anyway, while in the cell the individual is forced to do 3 strip searches per day per IDOC (Iowa Department of Corrections) policy even though he/she may never have left the cell or even had their cell door opened for any reason. In one particular facility of the IDO , the Mt. Pleasant Correctional Facility, the prison officials won't even allow the mentally ill person to shower, on the grounds that they "might drown themselves." I have personally experienced this kind of humiliating and dehumanizing cruelty as I was placed in a control unit cell when I temporarily lost hope in life and became suicidal. They called it "mental health observation status." (MHO)

MIM(Prisons) responds: As we pointed out in the issue of ULK 15 on Mental Health in prisons, the brutality of prisons causes mental health problems. It's no surprise that prisoners, facing daily humiliation, brutality and oppression, and cut off from family and friends, become depressed and even suicidal. And by keeping these prisoners from access to reading material and subjecting them to strip searches, things can only get worse. Join MIM(Prisons) in organizing against this oppression.

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[Religious Repression] [Iowa]
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Religious persecution of Muslims in Iowa

I am a young Muslim in the Department of Corrections in Iowa. I am a Sunni Muslum and am being persecuted for being a Muslim. Since the Fort Hood incident the Correctional Officers (COs) in here have been violating my civil rights. They told me that I can not wear my Kufi in the building nor can I give praises to Allah in the dayroom or outside in the yard. I was told that they better not hear about me having my Dhikr beads out where the COs can see them or they will take me to the hole.

I have filed a grievance against the DOC policy and I was told that this matter is non-grievable. I filed another one and that was denied also. I can't do anything to fight the violation of my first amendment right (freedom of speech and religion). I can't even make my Salat without the COs making comments.

Today I was written up and told that I better not get caught with my Kufi or my Dhikr beads on my head nor in my hands if I am not in religious service. I am reaching out to anyone who will help me and my brothers in here. I know that our rights are being violated and I need some help to be able to practice Islam freely without being persecuted for our beliefs. You have brothers afraid to speak up because of the COs in this prison.

MIM(Prisons) adds: There are no rights under a class system, only power struggles. This is yet another example, from another u$ prison, where grievances are powerless on their own.

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