Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Pennsylvania 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.

[Censorship] [Pennsylvania]
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Reply to "Pennsylvania Mail Disrupted"

This is in response/follow-up to the “PA Mail Disrupted” article on pg. 13 of ULK 66. Enclosed is some info printed off of the internet that you may or may not be aware of. It substantiates what both the comrade that wrote the article and also what MIM(Prisons) responded.

You are probably aware by now, but the “policy” of staff photocopying our privileged correspondence (legal mail) has since been lifted and we now receive the original documents once again. This is ONLY for privileged correspondence from courts and licensed attorneys with approved “ACNs” (Attorney Control Numbers). This changed over a year ago and I’ve provided a copy of the policy update with this letter.

This is a huge victory and to the best of my knowledge, aside from the individual (or groups of) prisoners who I’m sure filed grievances/lawsuits,, etc. to bring about this change, I believe the ACLU played a major role in this win.

But of course it’s one battle in a much larger war. Our “regular” mail is still being scanned by Smart Communications in Florida as well as our photos from family and friends.

All books/publications still must go through the “Security Processing Center” to be heavily scrutinized and censored, which leads to it taking a MINIMUM of about three weeks for us to receive our books. Sometimes it takes upwards of two months.

An alternative to the poor quality printed (copied) photos (I’ve persynally received numerous photos that the jail has printed on the opposite side of the SAME page as my letters, which I hope I’m not the only one that sees this as ridiculous, lazy, and flat out disrespectful) is to receive “photo books” via apps such as FreePrints, FlikShop, Shutterfly, and Snapfish.

These photo books are more expensive (around $10-$15) but are MUCH better quality than receiving the printed copies through Smart Communications. But the photo books must come (from the app) through the Security Processing Center.

Clearly the DOC isn’t happy that we’ve found a “loophole” in eir ridiculous policy regarding photos and I’ve witnessed a fellow prisoner’s ENTIRE photo book be rejected because ONE out of 25 of the photos depicted eir young daughter throwing up the “peace” sign. It goes without saying that ey claimed it was a “gang” sign. How ignorant and disrespectful can ey be? Obviously this question is rhetorical because clearly ey will stop at nothing and have no boundaries when it comes to censoring and harassing prisoners here in PA and around the country.

Bottom line, this is proof that we can achieve victories, albeit small ones, but victories nonetheless when standing up for our rights against the systematic oppression at the hands of our captors (the State).

So I hope it will encourage all of us to keep fighting and keep standing up for the what we believe in and what we know is right.

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[COVID-19] [Pennsylvania]
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Many PA Prisoners Have COVID-19 in Gen Pop

MIM,

Greetings. Enclosed is my completed answers for session 1 of the study group. I look forward to further material.

I will hopefully be back in gen. pop. (at a different prison) within the next month or two. I remain in segregation as all transfers in the PADOC have been suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ironically, those of us in segregation here are probably safer than the prisoners in general population because numerous staff (C.O.s, etc.) have tested positive for the virus here at this facility (and possibly prisoners, but I’m not sure) and we in seg. are basically in the closest thing to a legit quarantine.

Even in this seg. unit I still see a lot of C.O.s (too many) neglecting recommended (or sometimes mandatory) safety measures and most have a lackadaisical attitude about the situation. I’m surprised many more (and many of us) aren’t sick.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing back.

In Solidarity.

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[Medical Care] [Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Fayette] [Pennsylvania]
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Brutality in the RHU

I want to speak on what has been going on with me since I’ve been in this RHU. I came to the RHU on 12 November 2019 for an assault on another prisoner. Specifically I punched someone ONE time and broke my hand to the point of it requiring surgery. I had surgery on 26 November 2019 and had 3 temporary pins put in that were supposed to remain in for 3-4 weeks. (*Note: I STILL as of today have NOT been taken back to the hospital to have them removed. It’s going on 7-8 weeks) Three days later on 29 November 2019 as I was being escorted to the shower in handcuffs, I got into a verbal disagreement with 2 C.O.s (Tyne & Emminger) about an approved plastic bag I was supposed to get to cover my bandaged hand so I could shower. They were FALSELY claiming that it was NOT approved (this was later proven to be INCORRECT). But when I disputed this, C.O. Emminger proceeded to violently yank on the handcuff “tether” & twist & pull on my handcuffs to intentionally injure me. He said, “Oh you wanna argue? Now you don’t get shit.” And he proceeded to physically force me back into my cell.

I was prohibited from speaking to any medical staff about this & ended up receiving a COMPLETELY BOGUS & fabricated misconduct (write-up) claiming I threatened them, used “abusive” language & refused a direct order. When I went to my hearing I requested the camera footage & also requested to call 3 witnesses who would’ve refuted the false allegations. I was told that the video footage was “unavailable” and my witnesses were NOT called with the hearing examiner stating that they were “Not Needed” to determine guilt or innocence. Long story short, I was found guilty & received an additional 30 days of disciplinary time to run concurrent with the 45 I was already serving for assault. I’m currently appealing this decision.

ANOTHER similar incident occurred on 1 December 2019 wherein my cell was being searched in retaliation for myself & several other convicts complaining & putting in grievances about us not being able to exchange our dirty bed linens & towels for OVER TWO MONTHS (only the inmates who complained had their cells “searched”). It wasn’t even a search, they just wanted to tear our cells apart to send a message. During this “search”. I was removed from my cell and placed in cuffs. I noticed C.O.s kick out onto the tier 2 partial “gloves” that were provided to me by the hospital where I had my surgery to wear under a custom brace that was made for my hand to protect it. When I complained and stated what they were for, I was told to “shut the fuck up” & Sergeant Wiles ordered me to be escorted to the “strip cage.” I was taken to the “strip cage” & thrown inside by Sgt. Wiles & 2 other unknown C.O.s. As Sgt. Wiles was removing my cuffs, he aggressively yanked & twisted on the cuffs in an OBVIOUS attempt to injure me. When I yelled out in pain, Sgt. Wiles stated, “tell it to your buddy in there.” Referring to the camera inside of the strip cage.

I’ve since filed numerous grievances regarding these incidents and am at various stages of the appeal processes. My intent is to exhaust the in-house remedies and file a 1983 suit against the DOC & these C.O.s specifically. I’ve also contact numerous politicians & outside groups such as the ACLU, PA institutional Law Project, PA prison society, etc. and am looking for all the help, assistance and/or information I can get with this struggle.

If you can publicize my struggle in U.L.K. or on your website or in ANYWAY possible, I’d GREATLY appreciate it. Feel free to use ANY part of this letter & any & all details. If you can provide ANY info to help me or point me in the direction of anyone who can, PLEASE DO. Again, it will be greatly appreciated.

IN SOLIDARITY

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[Organizing] [State Correctional Institution Somerset] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 70]
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Educating and Fighting Grievance Denials in Pennsylvania

Until recently I was being held at SCI Somerset with 9 months hole time. During this time prison officials stole my commissary, denied me access to the law library (mini law library), discarded my legal materials, discarded my incoming mail, denied me legal phone calls (even when I had court within days of my request), and I was denied meals (trays), among other things. All in retaliation for my filing grievances about the many injustices and inhumane living conditions I and others suffered from.

After successfully challenging those things via grievance appeals to central office, these C.O.s started targeting other prisoners. Denying them showers, yard, meals, and giving their incoming mail to other prisoners. These guys reacted, as they should, but the way they reacted was counterproductive. So I taught them how to fight our oppressors using the grievance procedure for positive results and they were successful.

As a result of this, the prison guards and prison officials conspired on a course of action and the result was they transferred me to a facility where they know I have multiple enemies, and labeled me as a gang member (which I’m not). This is a Restricted Housing Unit (RHU).

Throughout this entire ordeal I saw opportunity to start teaching those brothers how to put a stop to oppression and injustices they were subjected to before I arrived. I am proud to say we’ve made a couple victories; small ones, but victories nonetheless. The brothers are especially happy of the bigger trays in the RHU! We have more work to do, our battles continue.

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[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [Pennsylvania]
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Retaliation and Threats for Reporting Rape in Pennsylvania

I am an inmate at SCI-Huntingdon in Huntingdon, PA. I am writing you hoping you can somehow help or assist me. I was a victim of rape in this jail in August 2019. I reported this to PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act) coordinator here at SCI Huntingdon, Lt. Grassmyer and Ms Pyle. I placed myself in solitary confinement to get away from my attacker who was my cellmate.

While in solitary confinement (RHU) I received threats of retaliation for filing the PREA report. My attacker is a well established gang member here at SCI Huntingdon with a lot of connections. I reported this to "security" and Lt. Grassmyer, I expressed how I was in fear for my safety due to the treats I received. In response I was given an ultimatum by Lt. Grassmyer, "go back to population, or get a misdconduct for refusing to go back to population." Reluctantly, I went back to population, I didn't want a misconduct when I see the parole board in Nov of this year. I wasn't in population for 24 hours before receiving multiple threats of retaliation for filing report to PREA (Lt. Grassmyer).

Friends of mine were approaching me warning me of a hit (bounty) on my head to stab me or cut me up real good. I went straight to the block guard and told him about the hits on my head, since then, Sept 5 2019, I've been in solitary confinement. I am in steady fear for my life and I'm afraid that this jail, Lt. Grassmyer in particular is going to get me seriously hurt or even killed.

Under the PREA act, it is my right to be protected from retaliation. If they try to make me go back to general population I know for a fact that I will be stabbed or cut up or even killed. This prison is corrupt and I don't trust anyone here and I need all the help I can get from the outside. So please, if there is anything, anything you can do to help me or assist me. I have almost 10 years incarcerated and I am not eligible for parole while in the RHU (solitary confinement), because it is a level 5 security, so even though I am eligible to go home, I can't as long as they keep me here in RHU. I'm in a Catch 22 and this is not right. Please help me.

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[Censorship] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 68]
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How to Fight PA Mail Policies

In the article "Pennsylvania Digitizing Prisoner Mail" in ULK 65(1) Soso points out that PA's new policy will restrict prisoners to purchasing books directly (after the publication is first approved by the DOC). By enforcing this policy the PA DOC is implementing a state-run monopoly on reading material within its prisons. The obvious reason for this imperialist act is to further censor prisoners' reading material.

Illinois comrades have heard our brothers' cries for help. This policy can be fought, but it will take time and dedication to prevail. Crofton v. Roe, 170 F. 3d 957, 961 (9th Cir. 1999) is a case finding that a regulation that only allowed a prisoner to receive publications he ordered and paid for directly bore no relationship to the interest of screening for contraband. You'll need to Shepardize this case to find cases from your Circuit that support this judgment.

What does this mean? It means that you can combat the current policy denying third parties to order you books. That might seem like a small victory compared to the digitization of your mail and pictures, but any victory against the state is a victory for the people. Unfortunately, due to the security concerns regarding drugs being smuggled into the prisons through the mail, it is unlikely that this policy will be overturned by any court. The only method left for this issue is direct action in protest of the policy which garnishes public attention and support (i.e. the mass hunger strikes in California in protest of the SHU which resulted in the abolishment of indefinite placement in the SHU). In Solidarity!


MIM(Prisons) responds: We hope that this PA mail policy will be challenged in the courts. Although MIM(Prisons) does not have the resources (or lawyers) to do this from the streets, we print this letter to support our jailhouse lawyers who are working on this battle. At the same time, this writer makes a good point that we are unlikely to win these legal battles entirely. We can sometimes gain some small victories, that allow us things like greater access to educational materials in prison. But we need to keep in mind that political power only comes to those who take it. The imperialists and their courts will not give up this power without a fight.

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[Censorship] [State Correctional Institution Forest] [Pennsylvania]
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Victory in Privileged Mail Battle at SCI Forest

I am in SCI Forest, and have been fighting to get our mail back and this is the outcome of it so far. I am fighting for regular mail to come to us to and I hope soon we start getting the original mail too. So I am sending this to you so you can put it in your ULK.

To: All Inmates
From: Tabb Bickell, Executive Deputy Secretary, Institutional Operations
Date: March 21, 2019
Re: Changes to PA DOC Privileged Correspondence

This notice is to advise you that the Department is implementing a revised Attorney Control Number process for privileged correspondence. With this new process, the way you receive your privileged correspondence is changing. Effective April 6, 2019, you will begin receiving original privileged correspondence. Similar to the current process, you will be present when the privileged correspondence is opened, the privileged correspondence will undergo a security screening and then you shall sign for the privileged correspondence received. Privileged correspondence shall only contain essential, confidential, attorney-client communication.

Failure to comply with the below requirements may result in the rejection of the correspondence:

1. Envelopes do not contain the appropriate identifying information.
2. The correspondence contains non-privileged correspondence.
3. The privileged correspondence contains documents that did not originate from the sending attorney(s). Third party original documentation is prohibited.

If an attorney inquires to you about this new process, please refer them to the Departments public website for all the necessary information (www.cor.pa.gov).
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[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Rockview] [Pennsylvania]
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Do Prisoner Lives Really Matter?

On Sunday, 3 March, 2019, a fellow prisoner passed away in afternoon yard. One minute he was talking with his buddies, going around the track, the next he was on the ground not breathing. Not surprisingly, the COs took their good old time responding to the scene, even though the man dropped not even 100 yards from where they were stationed. It took medical staff 15 minutes to respond after the call went in on the walkie. Since then, I found out several things.

1) DOC staff are not put through CPR training at their academy. Only medical staff are mandated to take this training.

2) Prisoners are not permitted to do CPR on any persyn, even if trained on the streets, or even if they could potentially save a life. Serious consequences can and will result, if a prisoner performs CPR on anyone.

3) Medical staff admit that the man might have lived if the response time was seen the slightest bit faster.

4) DOC staff couldn't give a shit about any persyn other than one of their own.

I, along with many other prisoners, are outraged at this situation. How many more prisoners must suffer and die at the hands of DOC officials and their nonsense rules? I refuse to sit back and do nothing. Awareness is key here. I plan on making other organizations, including several news companies and prisoner organizations, aware of the problem and the tragedy that occurred yesterday. I want the appropriate officials held fully accountable. I want to make it clear that ALL Lives Matter and no oppression will be tolerated. Thanks for giving one a voice. Thanks for giving victims a voice. Together we will fight oppression. We are the true United We Stand!

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[Censorship] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 66]
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Pennsylvania Mail Disrupted

Following a fifteen-day lockdown of all Pennsylvania state prisons, new policies were erected for receiving mail. Publications were halted, and hundreds of book packages from free prison book programs were returned to sender. This occurred because several staff members at various Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) prisons claimed to become deathly ill after handling prisoner mail.

DOC officials assumed it was synthetic marijuana, or K-2, being sent in through the mail. However Dr. Lewis Nelson, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and other prominent medical staff called the DOC on their lies and excuses about the lockdown and new policies and procedures dealing with prisoner mail. Dr. Nelson blew the whistle, so to speak, when he pointed out that one must ingest or inhale synthetic marijuana to have any type of effect on individuals.(1) One cannot be affected by merely touching it, or paper soaked in K-2. Furthermore, he stated that synthetic marijuana simply does not have the type of effects that the individuals were having.

So, one might ask, what the real agenda the DOC had in the change in procedure. The DOC has wanted to control what prisoners read and what type of mail they received for quite some time. It goes to show just how much prisons seek to control others. Needless to say, the DOC is currently under investigation due to its frivolous claims. Mail must be sent to a company in Florida, where it is scanned. It is then forwarded to each respective prisoner at whatever prison he/she is confined. Pennsylvania prisoners receive copies of photos, letters and greeting cards, and the originals are eventually destroyed. Even our legal mail is opened in the presence of each prisoner, handled in a biohazard container, then photocopied. The copies are given to the prisoner, and the originals placed in an "evidence" bag, and eventually destroyed, or so the DOC claims.

We are permitted to receive books, magazines and other publications now, as of very recently. They still must be sent to a secure processing center, where they are searched and then forwarded to each respective prisoner. This is a reminder that we are all being controlled. Unless we get together and do something about it. How long will we allow prison officials to violate our rights and take away freedoms that are promised to us in the U.$. constitution and its amendments? This is a call to arms, and the need to fight the system instead of tearing down one another. I refuse to allow the U.$. prison system to continue violating my rights, and what few freedoms are afforded to me. I will continue to struggle against the wretched machine that seeks to break me. This is a call for comrades to do the same.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We wrote about this Pennsylvania mail policy in ULK 65 and since that time, a new policy to send books and magazines to yet another separate address was implemented.(2) In response to outcry by prisoners and family, the PA DOC did back down on their policy that books could only be ordered through the PA DOC, from their approved vendors. That is no small victory.

We have instances of letters sent to the Florida processing center being returned to us just stamped "return to sender" after being opened and then taped shut. No reason is given. We think it's safe to assume it's the contents of the letter that inspires this censorship, because not all our mail is being returned, and it is being opened at the processing center. In at least one case, our Guide to Fighting Censorship was the item returned to us.

This is an important censorship battle and we join this comrade's call for everyone in Pennsylvania to take up the fight. This is an easy excuse to selectively censor revolutionary material, or selectively censor prisoners who are politically active. We anticipate an increase in denials of our mail. When you are notified of censorship, appeal it, and also let us know what was censored. If you haven't received mail from us in a while, check in and let us know. We always keep up subscriptions for 6 months after your last letter to us. Also follow this comrade's example and keep us informed about changes to the rules and updates on the fight against them. For our part, we will also be appealing when we have evidence of censorship and working with you to fight from the outside.

Notes:
1. https://www.thevermilion.com/opinion/inmates-speaking-out-about-injustices-mistreatment-should-concern-us/article_4669417c-c074-11e8-8448-b76185fef536.html
2. Soso of MIM(Prisons), "Pennsylvania Digitizing Prisoner Mail", ULK 65, November 2018.
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[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Forest] [Pennsylvania]
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Pennsylvania Playing Games with Number of Jails

I am a inmate in the state of Pennsylvania. I am in a state prison in Marionville, PA called Forest. I've been reading Under Lock and Key for some time now.

I would like to know how honest are they really being to you. When you see the state jails reduce their population. Then the county increased the population. How many of them prisoners are waiting to be sentenced for state prison, or even waiting to go to one? Within the past few years, I've seen the state of Pennsylvania close down 3 to 4 jails yet open up two big jails. How is that saving any money? When it will cost more to run them than it did for the 3 to 4 they closed down. I am very confused.

Now they got all our mail going to the state of Florida, blaming it all on drugs, yet you got several guards coming down with food poisoning. That is the same food us prisoners eat. So tell me how many prisoners have food poison, but yet not saying nothing about it?

So let's really be honest with one another. I am just getting sick of reading all of the stories about state prisoners, but yet never really seeing anything really happen. This is all one big money scam. You know it as well as I do so who are we trying to B.S. Like I said, let's be honest with each other. All of us prisoners are in jail for breaking the law at some point.

Yet they do it each and every day, and get away with it.

Yet everyone is always talking about the population of prisoners. Give them something to work for. It will stop a lot of violence in the jails. I do realize I am making a lot of sense. Yet they do not want to do so. Only because that will be taken money from them.

Yet it's okay for them to start an prisoner late in a program. When their time is up, parole will give them a hit only because they are not done with their program. Yet most of the programs can be done on the outside.

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