Over the past few months the United Struggle from Within - Nevada, has been hard at work, alongside groups such as the Reetboys and PLF/MISM, in a show of prisoner unity, building up a grievance campaign. Together, these groups, with their different ideologies, continue to lead a struggle for unity and peace within the NDOC.
We have had great success, and we now see open dialogue between and among groups which had previously been at odds with one another. This unity is coming in despite of our language, national, religious, philosophical, and/or ideological differences.
The USW-Nevada, alongside the PLF/MISM, Reetboys, and others, are now calling on prisoners at High Desert State Prison (HDSP), be you in general population or protective segregation, to stop the hatred and join in our current and ongoing struggle against the level system as it is employed at HDSP. Especially as it relates to the lack of programs, the inability to earn good time/work time credits, get parole, or be released. Prisoners housed at HDSP are being denied the very same opportunities given to every other prisoner at every other prison within the NDOC.
The grievance campaign has been ongoing, and over the past 2 months we have seen some 100+ prisoners file grievances on this issue. The response we have received has shown the attitude of the HDSP authorities. Namely that education, programs, and work are a privilege, not a right. This is being said despite the mission statement of director James Dzurenda, which states the following:
"The Nevada Department of Corrections will improve public safety by ensuring a safe and humane environment that incorporates proven rehabilitation initiatives that prepare individuals for successful reintegration into our communities.
"Vision – reduce victimization and recidivism by providing offenders with incentive for self-improvement and the tools to effect change.
"Philosophy – we will pursue our mission with integrity, act in a professional and ethical manner, be responsible for our actions, and raise the department to the highest standards.
"Goals – operate the department according to the best practices. Ensure the best use of department resources, educate stakeholders and customers, improve communication."
The actions being taken at HDSP, where the overwhelming majority of prisoners are denied work credits, programs, and any advancement within the level system itself, are contrary to this mission statement, the best interest of society overall, and the welfare of the inmates housed here.
Every day that we allow this to continue is another day that we will be forced to stay in prison. HDSP is denying us work time credits, which costs us 5 days a month, as well as education, which costs us 120 days for a GED, and 120 days for a high school diploma. While every other prisoner in any other prison within the NDOC earns these days, we at HDSP must do more of our sentences. For example, if you have a 12-48 month sentence, you will get out in approximately 912 days by working and getting both your GED and high school diploma. However, at HDSP, even if you do not receive a single notice of charges, the same prisoner would be forced to do every single day of that 4 years. Meaning the same inmate is required to do 548 more days on his sentence for simply being housed at HDSP. This number increases when you consider the days that can be earned by completing programs not available to prisoners at HDSP. Think about this number!
The United Front for Peace in Prisons (UFPP), a movement underway in Nevada, alongside the United Struggle from Within, the PLF/MISM, Reetboys, and many national groups have joined together in a single voice to call for unity, and an end to prisoner-on-prisoner violence, and to join together in a struggle for change. Join this struggle for change.
The grievance campaign will continue into a civil complaint. We will attempt to get it certified as a class action filed on behalf of all inmates, but in order to do this we need every inmate to file the grievances, and then file the individual 1983 Civil Complaint. Towards this goal, we are including examples for each level of the grievance process, and will make available to all who have completed the grievance process an example 1983 Civil Complaint.
We have not only completed the grievances, but letters have been sent to the director and the warden of HDSP. We have also been able to, via a whistle blower, get our hands on OP516, which describes the level system, but is marked "no inmate access." We will make this available as well.
We will end this here, but before we do we would like to say that in order for change to occur we must stand up and fight together for that change. The reason that things have gotten as bad as they have is due to cowardice. We have become so individualized that we covet what little we have, and fear retaliation. When is enough enough? Let us build up a voice and fight, as a single, unified body, for what is just!
Contact USW-Nevada through MIM(Prisons), for more information about prisoner issues and the continued struggle: MIM(Prisons), PO Box 40799, San Francisco, CA 94140.
AR740 and the Grievance Process
Nevada has implemented an unconstitutional grievance process. This grievance process is outlined in AR740. It states that an inmate may file no more than a single grievance in a single week, and that no more than a single grievance issue may be raised in a single grievance. This, of course, is unconstitutional, and should be challenged. But we are still required by law to adhere to the grievance process, no matter how unconstitutional it is, if we want to get to court.
We know that many prisoners have trouble with the grievance process. We will go over the basic process here so that you will know exactly what to do.
Step one – Start to write kites to your caseworker, unit SCO, and every job position, requesting placement in work, or to join programs. Save these responses, and a copy of the original request to show proof.
Step two – Get an informal grievance from your floor officer, be he/she a porter or a bubble office. Also get at least a grievance continuation form. Fill out the grievance using the example given herein.
Step three – Fill out your name, cell number, institution, etc. and then sign and date the grievance. This should be done first so you don’t forget. The same needs to be done for the grievance continuation form. Leave the grievance number area blank.
Step four – Using your own words, write your grievance.
Step five – Tear off and keep the last page of the grievance and grievance continuation forms.
Step six – Put the remaining pages, folded together, in the grievance box.
Keep track of your days. They have 45 days to answer your informal grievance. If you have not received a response on day 45, proceed to your first level grievance.
When filing your first and second level grievances, follow the same instructions as above, but attach the copies of the grievance, and any responses you have, with the grievances.
It is important to proceed through all 3 grievance levels. You have 45 days for the informal, 45 days for the first level, and 60 days for the second level. Make sure you keep a copy of every kite, grievance, etc., you have. You want to build up as much evidence as possible, so always have your unit officer sign your kites, and keep a copy. Every week you should send out as many kites as possible requesting job placement or program participation.
I am grieving the application of the level system as it is employed at HDSP as it relates to programs, work, and educational opportunities. This grievance is based on my due process and equal protection rights based on the future of HDSP to offer me any ability to earn good time/work time credits which is available to all prisoners within the NDOC but those housed at HDSP.
Why is HDSP denying me any ability to program when Director Dzurenda has specified in his mission statement that: "The Nevada Department of Corrections will improve public safety by ensuring a safe and humane environment that incorporates proven rehabilitation initiatives that prepare individuals for successful reintegration into our communities." The mission statement then goes on to say the vision is to "reduce victimization and recidivism by providing offenders with incentive for self-improvement and the tools to effect change."
None of this mission statement is being applied at HDSP. In fact the level system denies prisoners any ability to program, educate ourselves, work, or any other means by which we may better ourselves, which, as stated by Director Dzurenda, is the goal of NDOC. Furthermore, not only are you endangering society by failing to offer rehabilitative programs to the 3,500 prisoners at HDSP, you are denying me due process and equal protection.
Every other prisoner, on every other yard, irregardless of level, is given the opportunity, even encouraged, to participate in programs. Meaning a prisoner serving a 12-48 month sentence on any yard other than HDSP, who works and programs, which is available to every prisoner, will do approximately 912 days of the 1460 days sentenced. The very same prisoner, housed at HDSP, receiving no writeups his entire sentence, will be forced to do the entire 1460 days. Meaning, HDSP is making prisoners do 548 more days on a 12-48 month sentence for no other reason than he is at HDSP. This is an unconstitutional violation of my right to due process and equal protection because any other prisoner, with my exact sentence, will be released earlier than I will, for no other reason that I, being housed at HDSP, am being denied the same access to programs available to prisoners on every other yard within the NDOC.
How can the NDOC justify telling prisoners who are begging for rehabilitative treatment that they do not deserve treatment, that this is a privilege, not a right? The warden and caseworkers at HDSP are refusing to help prisoners better themselves and are thus directly responsible for the recidivism rate, violence and crime that occurs at HDSP.
Why does HDSP see fit to deny drug addicts or sex offenders treatment? How will the community react when they find out HDSP is refusing to treat its prisoners, who are begging for treatment, and then releasing these people back into their community?
The fact is that HDSP houses approximately 3600 prisoners but work, education and rehabilitative programs, are available to only approximately 470 prisoners. That leaves 3130 inmates without any access to work, education, or rehabilitative programs. Which in turn means that I, and these 3130 prisoners, are being denied access to the very programs offered to every other prisoner within the NDOC.
- I want HDSP to offer rehabilitation programs to all 3600 inmates at HDSP.
- I want HDSP to review the mission statement of Director Dzurenda, and act accordingly.
- I want HDSP to stop punishing me and other prisoners for simply being at HDSP, and recalculate my days to include the 5 days a month due to the lack of work/programs at HDSP.
- I want HDSP to employ active, proven rehabilitation programs as a means/requirement for advancement within the level system, and not as a privilege.
For the remaining answers, on levels I and II of the grievance process, utilize this example, but formulate your response based on their responses to your grievances. Do not become disheartened by the denials. They will fight us on this.
Some further ideas for grievances
Others and I are also currently grieving the following issues. All of us should challenge them. They are, but are not limited to:
- The lack of proper hygiene supplies. 1 roll of toilet paper and 2 bars of soap a week is not sufficient. Furthermore, every other prison makes soap readily available, with 2 rolls of toilet paper.
- No cleaning supplies, and lack of time to clean cells.
- Toilet timers. No other prison requires inmates so long between flushes, especially when locked down in a cell, with another inmate, 22 hours a day.
- The grievance process. The new requirement of 1 grievance a week is unconstitutional and forces us to choose what issues to address. It thus directly effects our ability to access to the court.
- Supervisor Graham, and the law library. Supervisor Graham routinely denies access to the courts by refusing to make legal copies, confiscating legal work, and has written at least one false notice of charges.
If you know of, or can think of more issues, please feel free to contact the USW and let us know.