Prisoners Report on Conditions in

Pennsylvania Prisons

Expand ULK. Send us $50 concealed cash with an address and we'll send you a stack of each issue for the next year. help out

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.

[Campaigns] [State Correctional Institution Frackville] [Pennsylvania]
expand

Fighting "Lost" Grievances in Pennsylvania

I am having a terrible time with the grievance system at SCI-Frackville along with the misconduct appeal system both in population and in the hole where I'm presently confined.

In general population I have the option of putting my grievance in the grievance box on the housing block or in the grievance box in the chow hall. I always use the chow hall. Only the grievance coordinator has a key to the grievance boxes so all grievances get processed. The problem begins when the grievance is responded to. All responses are sent to the housing units and "stolen" by the guards on the units. Then when we complain about not getting a response, we are told we have to write to the record office and "pay" for another copy. By the time that is done, the time for appealing the response has expired, precluding you from appealing the response. Our final appeals must be sent to the "Chief Grievance Coordinator." On four occasions, she claimed she never received my final appeal that I placed in the mailbox with a postage paid envelop. Misconduct appeals are placed in the inmate-request-slip box. A guard has a key to that box, and on six occasions I was told I never appealed my misconduct sanction.

I definitely need a copy of the grievance petition to have prisoners copy and send out.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is a good example of the grievance system in prisons across the country, where prison workers conspire to "lose" grievances so that prisoners have no recourse to challenge misconduct. The grievance petition is one tool to help with this fight. We now have petitions for 10 states, and we are looking for prisoners who can customize the petition to their own states as needed. This petition can also be a tool to educate other prisoners. You can share it with those who see the effects of the unjust grievance system, and talk to them about how this relates to the overall criminal injustice system and the need for prisoners to step up and do something. This petition is a small action they can take right now, but they can also get more involved in studying and struggling over issues of bigger change to fundamental injustice. This is one way we can share the anti-imperialist movement with people through practical struggle that impacts their lives right now.

chain
[Education] [Mental Health] [Pennsylvania]
expand

Pennsylvania Prison System Promotes Social Ills

Systemic and severe violations of international human rights law are an endemic feature of prison conditions in Pennsylvania. This is why the PA Department of Corrections is being investigated by the U.S. Deptartment of Justice and a class action lawsuit has been filed by the Disability Rights Network challenging PA's mental health practices of warehousing prisoners with serious mental illnesses in solitary confinement causing this class of prisoners undue suffering. The treatment amounts to a punishment nightmare where they cannot receive treatment, but receive disciplinary infractions and sanctions for behavior directly related to their mental health issues.

During the past 30 years or more, Pennsylvania has embarked upon a project of race and class based incarceration unlike anything Pennsylvanians have ever seen. In my almost four decades of incarceration, I have witnessed the annual state prison budget increase from under $100 million for the fiscal year 1980, to $2 billion today. Not coincidentally, prison construction and prison population increased with the passage of the law that created the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing in 1982. The prison budget has increased even more because the General Assembly authorized three new prisons and built cells at 17-existing prisons to imprison another 9000 prisoners in the next 3 years. Additionally, PA leads the nation in juveniles serving life sentences, the overwhelming number of them being of African descent.

Pennsylvania is one of many states that are building more jails and prisons at the same time that they are closing schools. While states have an abundance of funds to build jails and prisons, more and more school districts are facing funding and program cuts, furloughs, and hiring freezes. Is it not more sensible to invest in schools than jails and prisons? Schools will help to improve quality of life, education and values; jails and prisons will continue the pipeline to prison and increase the penal population.

Just like I have witnessed the state's annual prison budget increase tremendously, I have witnessed a perversion of the priorities in education that in the long run criminalizes poor blacks and poor people of color in general, institutionally robbing public education to feed the prison industrial complex.

The National Center for Education Statistics affirms that 68 million people read below basic levels, but less money in education is spent. It uses the state of Texas as an example, where they have eliminated close to $4 billion of the budget and also the financing of programs that served 100,000 at-risk children. Other cuts have included the closing of hundreds of schools.


MIM(Prisons) adds:
We appreciate this comrade for taking the time to write this article, which concisely points out many of the problems with the current system. While we print it here for its useful content, we disagree with the reformist line of the article. Long-term isolation is torture for all people, whether you are mentally ill or you are a political prisoner. We've watched as reforms around who gets put into control units only justifies using them against some of the greatest leaders of the oppressed. So we do not report on these efforts uncritically.

As proletarian internationalists, spending more money on schools or prisons for Amerikans is a crime as long as people (whose wealth they've stolen) are dying of malnutrition and basic medical care. Segregation in public schools is an ongoing problem in the United $tates. And the educational disparity, which leaves oppressed nations within U.$. borders with far less than adequate education, feeds into prison. Taking money from prisons to put into education will not solve this problem. While we do support cutting prison budgets as a means to discourage the ridiculously high incarceration rate in this country, as long as the imperialists control the budgets, they will find ways to spend money on furthering their goals. Reforms to spending will just move things around a bit, but not make fundamental and lasting change we will need to end the system of imperialism which prioritizes profit over the life of the oppressed.

chain
[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Cresson] [Pennsylvania]
expand

Pennsylvania Torture Regular Part of Prison Life

I come in the universal salute of peace. I was recently made aware of your movement and newsletter ULK May/June 2012 Number 26. And as I read it I started to see plenty similarities between our causes. I am a native of Aztlán and therefore the ways of valuing self are embedded in my way of life.

Here, like in any other plantation in PA, exist the ordinary issues of: abuse of authority by staff, unconstitutional living conditions, a definitely inadequate grievance system and last but not least plenty of incompetency in the form of correctional officers and other staff who are not fit mentally, intellectually and/or physically to perform their job who seek revenge on us.

June 30, 2012 in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) an incident took place involving a certified mentally ill prisoner who was moved by force to the "reinforced cell/dry cell/ suicide watch cell." After he was placed in that cell the lieutenant sprayed him with pepper spray, even after the prisoner had already stopped struggling. The whole block and every prisoner felt the effects of the spray because they didn't bother to stop the air ventilation circulatory system which let the pepper spray enter every cell. Soon after the prisoners with asthma started to have complications with breathing and vomiting. But instead of providing health care for us, the guards left the block because they couldn't bear the effects of the pepper spray. This happened at SCI-Cresson June 30, 2012 8pm to 1:30am.

I'd like to personally urge any prisoner to educate him/her self in the law of the land and apply it to their everyday life behind bars. Knowledge is the only cure to the fast growing and deadly disease of "ignorance." Being anti-establishment and/or anti-government doesn't mean that you are an outlaw, a villain or a ruthless piece of trash as they see us. No! It means that you would stand for your principles in accordance with how you want to live your life, and apply those principles to yourself and to how you'd like your legacy to be written.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade is correct that even events that seem relatively small and common like this pepper spraying incident need to be fought. Prisoners need to learn the legal system and try to use it to our advantage. At the same time, we have to know that we won't win this battle through the legal system. It is a part of the broader criminal injustice system which, as a tool of social control for imperialism, will not give up power without a fight. Only by overthrowing imperialism will we be able to establish a system that truly serves the interests of the people. But while we build for that struggle we can fight the day to day battles to gain some small rights and freedoms for our comrades behind bars, putting them in a better position to organize and build the movement.

chain
[United Front] [Organizing] [State Correctional Institution Huntingdon] [State Correctional Institution Camp Hill] [Pennsylvania]
expand

PA Tries to Divide Prisoners with False Rat Label

I recently returned from a trip to federal court in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. As I re-entered these battered walls of this prison I cringed and rejoiced because the conditions of the temp prison I was at are far worse than Huntingdon. SCI Camp Hill "AKA White Hill" is known for beating, starving, humiliating, and much more. I was housed in the SMU portion of the jail. It's a long-term disciplinary unit. I was banged off every door from booking to the unit, which was no surprise. There we got three cold meals a day, no yard, no shower. That place is crazy. I passed your address along and let the brothers know that there are people who care about these conditions of the PA prison system. These pigs, all ex-military, are overweight, out of shape, and relentless.

As I entered back to the RHU part of Huntingdon I was greeted with "there he is!" "That's the Rat!" I was puzzled, I've never told on anyone in my life. I did a little research and learned that while I was away a couple pigs were telling other prisoners I was ratting on them for passing stuff. We came to the conclusion that my letter to the Department of Justice made these pigs mad. I wrote a letter to the Department of Justice in Washington naming several COs chewing snuff and spitting it in our food, the mice that run this place, the lack of heat, and the neglect of a young Spanish boy who hung himself. The boy survived only because we were kicking our doors and yelling for help. He was in a camera cell with 24 hours live feed to a screen in the RHU bubble, but the pigs were watching TV and playing on the computer while this young man was trying to end his life. So I'm a rat for helping my fellow man. We straightened that all out, and now the pigs are our target once again.

I try to stress to these young brothers, we can't oppress each other. We are already being oppressed by the PA DOC. I tell them if you feel like oppressing another prisoner, take it out on the pigs. I'm spreading copies of all you send me, I'd like to know about how to start a study group here. I want to push your theory it seems to be positive growth material.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We commend this comrade for taking on the "Rat" label head on and clearing his name with his fellow prisoners so that he could continue his organizing work. As point 2 of the United Front principles states, "To maintain unity we have to keep an open line of networking and communication, and ensure we address any situation with true facts." To help prisoners like this one, we run a study group through the mail that provides basic political education, and we also have a guide to forming study groups in prison, so that people can take what they learn and share it with others and have discussions in the yard or wherever else it is possible to gather and talk. Write to us for more information.

chain
[Abuse] [State Correctional Institution Forest] [Pennsylvania]
expand

Brutality and Resistance in Pennsylvania Demonstrates Need for United Front

I am currently being held captive in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) at SCI Forest and would like to apprise you of some recent events that have taken place:

On February 21, 2012, a mentally ill prisoner told Lt. Raymond Burkhart and other staff that he was feeling suicidal shortly after breakfast trays were distributed to prisoners in the unit. In turn, Lt. Burkhart summoned an extraction team, which consisted of approximately seven guards clad in full riot gear - helmets, body armor and gas masks. Moreover, the extraction team carried Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs), chemical agents, nightsticks, and other weapons. Bear in mind, the mentally ill prisoner, like most other prisoners in RHU, was housed in a single-man cell and with no clothing except for a jumpsuit and underclothes.

Instructed by Lt. Murin, the extraction team accosted the mentally ill prisoner and demanded that he relinquish his plastic breakfast tray. Disregarding the extraction team's orders, the prisoner requested psychiatric care apropos of his suicidal feelings. The extraction team then blasted the prisoner with a chemical agent. With his eyes and skin burning from the chemical agent, the prisoner relinquished the breakfast tray. The extraction team then left the unit. Lt. Burkhart and other staff left the mentally ill prisoner in the cell with the chemical agent burning his eyes and skin, and causing him to experience breathing complications overnight. All requests for medical and mental health care were denied.

The following morning, Lt. Burkhart summoned another extraction team to deal with the same mentally ill prisoner. Fortunately, that extraction team did not attack him with chemical agents. Unfortunately, they opted to charge into his cell, stun him with CEDs and pummel him bloody. Even after he was fully restrained by handcuffs and leg irons, one extraction team member (C.O. Woods) repeatedly struck his face with fists and elbows. The prisoner suffered a broken nose in addition to other facial injuries.

The extraction team then locked the mentally ill prisoner in a hard-cell (a cell with a concrete slab for a bed and no other furniture). He was left naked and bleeding with no running water. Several prisoners made requests to Lt. Burkhart and other staff for the mentally ill prisoner to be given medical treatment. These requests were denied.

On February 23, a comrade had words with Lt. Burkhard about the fact that the mentally ill prisoner was being denied medical treatment and held under inhuman conditions. Lt. Burkhart insulted the comrade with racial epithets.

That afternoon, the comrade was asleep while a pig was counting prisoners. The comrade didn't respond to the pig's calling of his name and consequently Lt. Burkhart ordered several guards to enter the comrade's cell. Awoken by the opening of the cell door, the comrade sprung to his feet and defended himself from the attack by the pigs. In fact, he defended himself so well that one pig ended up with a broken nose, and another with broken ribs. The comrade received minimal damage to the body.

Then, yesterday, four prisoners refused to return to their cells from the RHU yard in what began as a peaceful protest to seek the removal of Lt. Burkhart from the RHU. True to form, the pigs quickly got into riot gear and stormed the yard. They attacked one of the four prisoners with a stun shield. Be mindful of the fact that each prisoner was in a single-man exercise cage. Seeing no possible victory in combating the extraction team under the circumstances, the other three prisoners chose to return to their cells and excogitate new strategies.

It is well understood that MIM(Prisons) believes that the time is not yet ripe for armed struggle in this imperialist country, as their regime is still very powerful, and a minuscule percentage of the people are ready and able to partake in real revolution. Furthermore, when prisoners use violence against guards, then those who want to keep the prison industrial complex functioning label such prisoners incorrigible in order to increase the fear, and decrease the support, of prisoners in general by the populace. This makes easier the accomplishment of the government's goal of social control. Notwithstanding, prisoners often feel the need to take up arms against oppressors as guards are given free rein to physically assault them, deprive them of meals and subject them to various other forms of torture.

Even when prisoners endeavor to resolve issues the "right" way, i.e., filing prison grievances and lawsuits, they are often faced with coverups and injustices. For example, the same Lt. Burkhart mentioned earlier in this report often goes into cells while prisoners are in the yard and discards prisoners' legal materials. There are video cameras recording every pod in this unit 24 hours a day, but when prisoners request the use of the videos that would show Lt. Burkhart leaving cells with legal materials as proof of claims to resolve grievances, Lt. Burkhart's coworkers either refuse to review and preserve the videos, or say they can't see him on them. Such experiences are frustrating for prisoners.

The unity, discipline and hardihood displayed by the prisoners who partook in the hunger strikes in Georgia and California is commendable. And albeit not all participants belong to LOs, respect must be given to the many who do and yet were able to put their differences to the side and federate to take a stand against the common enemy. We are not close to having that type of unity in Pennsylvania, as individualism is prevalent out here. Nonetheless, there are some inspired guerrillas paying attention and working to radicalize others. Moreover, some of us are building the foundation of a movement that will aim to join the United Front for Peace in Prisons.

So, as other comrades and I strive to devise and employ tactics to thwart Lt. Burkhart and other oppressors, we look to strengthen solidarity with those who desire a communist world.


MIM(Prisons] adds: These struggles in Pennsylvania are similar to those going on across the criminal injustice system in Amerika. And this comrade does a good job describing the contradiction between the immediate desire of prisoners to fight back physically against the physical brutality they face daily and the potentially detrimental consequences of this armed struggle at this stage of development. We continue to encourage all prisoners to work with the United Front for Peace in Prisons and avoid physical confrontations whenever possible. We will build a movement that demonstrates that it is the oppressed who want peace and the prisons that promote violence.

chain
[National Oppression] [Pennsylvania]
expand

Pennsylvania DOC Oppression by the Numbers

Two Republican judges were convicted in a cash for kids jail time scheme in Pennsylvannia. In PA this practice goes on each and every work day. Republicans in the state of Colorado send kids as young as twelve to adult penitentiaries, keeping them locked up until they're dead or grow old. This is a savage system.

Black people receive two and sometimes three times as much time as white people for committing the same offenses. A Black woman will receive life or a 20 to 40 year sentence for killing her child. A white woman will receive probation or 30 months for the same offense. This in itself is a crime. Black men are automatically charged with rape for any type of sexual offense. White men are rarely charged with rape for any type of sexual offense. Wealthy white individuals aren't charged at all. It matters not how much money a Black person has, should a Black man get accused of a sex crime no matter how preposterous, that ass is going to jail.

Pennsylvania recently sent 1000 prisoners to Michigan in March 2009 and they came back in May 2011. Pennsylvania also sent 1000 prisoners to Virginia who have yet to return. They were sent away, not to reduce over crowding, but for financial reasons. Michigan is hurting for jobs since most of their business moved out of town. Pennsylvania had 7k prisoners who had already served their minimum sentences; however, the Parole Board refused to release them for what they said was non-compliance or lack of programming. Why didn't they just release the seven thousand prisoners who were eligible? Because it's a business. Pennsylvania earned $7 million dollars from the phone system in 2010. This institution earns $5k each day the commissary is open. The Correctional Industry (laundry) here at SCI-Somerset earns $1 million dollars annually from outside contracts.

Pennsylvania does not permit prisoners to purchase photographs with or without nudity. Prisoners are allowed to buy magazines but 6 out of 10 issues will be censored (denied) in order to discourage prisoners from ordering magazine subscriptions. I have had four publications denied in a single day. Under Lock and Key was denied October 7, 2011 along with my People Against Racist Terrorism publication, my Human Rights Coalition magazine and my Black Enterprise magazine on the very same day. Five or more of my publications are denied each month.

In the course of a single decade Pennsylvania prison numbers have doubled, not as a result of the crime rate, but due to investors who receive prime rate of their stock. A score ago, forty-six states harshly rewrote their criminal sentencing guidelines, doubling and tripling prison terms for a broad array of crimes. For this reason, our legislators can now afford to reduce the 100 to 1 powder to crack cocaine ratio to 18 to 1 because the other charges which are the result of one initial crime will make up for the loss.

First time offenders are receiving lengthy prison sentences, sometimes for the skin they're in. Prosecutors decide who will be charged with what crime. Insensitive judges determine how much time any given defendant will receive. One prosecutor told an all white jury "what makes the defendant dangerous is his race." Prosecutors mention high profile cases which have nothing to do with the individual being tried in order to prejudice the jury against the defendant. Prosecutors intentionally introduce false testimony, flawed forensic science and allow police officers to get away with perjury, yet they are not held accountable for their actions. Just as police officers who cut down unarmed Black men get off with justifiable homicides. No homicide is ever justifiable.

How is it that Black americans who only make up 12% of the U.$. population make up 60% of the prison population? Our prison population has quadrupled since 1980. In 1980 Pennsylvania spent $100K on prisons, now the state spends $1.8 billion annually. It's no wonder Pennsylvania is facing a $2.3 billion deficit. In 1980 only 6% of the nation's prisoners were convicted of drug offenses, now that number has grown to 25% and offenders are receiving twice as much time.


MIM(Prisons) responds: This prisoner does a good job summarizing the national oppression that is inherent in the criminal injustice system, not just in Pennsylvania but across the United $tates. We have reviewed the book The New Jim Crow which gives more background and details on this system. While we agree that Pennsylvania (and other states) have an economic interest in expanding their prison systems, we are careful not to mislead people into thinking prisons are about business. Prisons are a tool of social control which also provide good paying jobs for large numbers of labor aristocracy workers. But they are fundamentally a money losing business: As we explained in an article on the economics of prisons, prisons do not make enough money to cover their costs so they will always be subsidized by the government.

chain
[Censorship] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 25]
expand

Fighting Censorship Through Litigation Works

Back in 2008, I was denied a lot of reading material and did not file grievances about any of the instances. During that time, I was stubbornly relying on just physical action to challenge these oppressors. That certainly was not conducive to making my situation better.

Fortunately, I've grown wiser over the years. I now litigate against these tyrants and use the grievance system regularly. Since I began utilizing the pen against them, I am yet to have any material from MIM(Prisons) rejected. Should that change in the future, I will file grievances and subsequent appeals. I will also keep MIM(Prisons) abreast of the results and be willing to take action in the court if there is strong probability of success.

This prison recently rejected some issues of a Turning the Tide newsletter. I will send you a copy of the grievance I filed, the appeals, and responses.

I know they would like to prohibit us from receiving and reading literature that teaches us correct ideology and ways to thwart their oppressive establishment. I will no longer allow them to get away with trying to control my mind by putting unreasonable limits on what I can read.


MIM(Prisons) responds: We don't want to mislead our readers to think that filing grievances will guarantee your rights are respected, as other articles in ULK will quickly disprove. But as materialists we should be struggling to learn and utilize the most effective means towards progress. And this correspondent's change from physically challenging COs to utilizing the administrative process is a very common transition for readers of Under Lock & Key in this learning process. Progress is not just about using the legal system, it's about organizing for our own needs and building independent institutions of the oppressed.

While MIM(Prisons) continues to discourage violence against COs, and we see this play out in prisoners' behavior, the prison administrators regularly censor ULK as a "threat to security." It is clear that they are not concerned about the physical safety of prisoners or staff, but rather the security of their jobs, hazard pay and white power.

chain
[Release] [International Connections] [Pennsylvania]
expand

Pennsylvania Transfers Prisoners Far from Family

Beginning in February 2010 the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections decided to transfer 2000 prisoners out of state due to overcrowding in Pennsylvania prison system. The two states Pennsylvania sent its prisoners to were Michigan and Virginia. I was one of the prisoners they sent to Virginia. We all were just snatched in the middle of the night and transferred out of state. It was almost like being kidnapped, being taken from your family and being sent to a southern prison from a northern prison. Not even having a chance to call your family to let them know about the transfer.

It was said that we would only be transferred for three years, but now all the prisoners transferred to Michigan have been transferred back to Pennsylvania because Pennsylvania now has new prisons and room for its prisoners. My problem with this is that all of the prisoners transferred to Virginia, including myself, are still in Virginia, with no plans for us to be transferred back to Pennsylvania. What about us? Don't we have family in Pennsylvania who love us? Why are we being kept in Virginia, when the other prisoners have been sent back? It's almost like Pennsylvania does not care about us. The Virginia Department of Corrections says there is no plans to move us back to Pennsylvania. And one sad thing is that there was a large number of prisoners who are serving a life sentence who were transferred here to Virginia. I mean men who have been incarcerated for 15, 20 or 30 years just transferred out of state away from their families. It's just not fair.


MIM(Prisons) adds: This is just one of many examples of actions taken by prisons demonstrating that the Amerikan criminal injustice system has nothing to do with rehabilitation. It has been shown that ties to family and community are important to the ability of prisoners to stay on the streets once released, but Pennsylvania (and many other states) are more concerned with the economics of running their prison system than the well being of the prisoners. Prisons are a tool of social control in this country, and we should not be surprised by these callous actions by prison administrators. On a bigger scale, the system of imperialism displaces millions of people all around the world. Comrades isolated by out-of-state transfers should feel unity with refugees and migrants all around the world, who share a common interest in tearing down imperialism and rebuilding their communities. There is strength in numbers, and hope in unity and organizing.

chain
[Control Units] [Pennsylvania]
expand

What is the Special Management Unit?

In early May 2009 over 125 prisoners of all nationalities came together for a food strike in United $tate$ penitentiary, Lewisburg, PA to protest their confinement and conditions in the newly opened Special Management Unit (SMU). Hundreds of letters were sent out to media outlets across the country and SMU prisoner family members were called who then contacted national news services. The administration conducted talks with two prisoners who were the alleged "ringleaders" of the food strike on ways to remedy the situation to try and stop the strike. Their story was never heard about on TV or in the newspaper, nor locally in the Pennsylvania paper The Daily Item.

Part of the food strike was to protest for more commissary items since the administration had refused to allow soap or shampoo to be sold on the store list. Their reasoning was that the one tiny bar of soap the correctional officers gave out once a week was sufficient. Also there were no food items, not even coffee being sold to prisoners, nor were they allowed radios in their cells or personal shoes, and a big part of the strike was to protest double bunking in the newly created Super-Max. The media didn't think this was a story since many prisoners gave in to finally eat after the administration threatened to force feed after people passed out from malnutrition. A couple prisoners were even fed intravenously by force after being cell extracted.

Family members of SMU prisoners have since created websites and chat rooms to discuss and expose the harsh procedures and conditions their loved ones are facing. The Lewisburg Prison Project has sent concerned citizens into the SMU to talk with prisoners and administrators, some of whom have recently been allowed to tour the facility and speak to Warden Bledsoe who claims the 2 plus year forced Super-Max program for the "worst of the worst" is working. The Lewisburg Prison Project has been pushing for single-cell status for prisoners like in the ADX, Florence CO to ease tensions created when two people live in such a confined area. Sometimes days will go by and cellies no longer talk to each other, they begin to plot and fight, even murder occurs in cells. Recently one prisoner strangled his cellie due to the tension within their cell.

Since the creation of the SMU multiple prisoners have suffered lung damage and gotten emphysema due to the ongoing construction to renovate the housing units after asbestos was found. USP Lewisburg was not ready to house hundreds of prisoners in 23 hour lockdown. They built recreation cages no bigger than the cells forcing 6 to 8 people to inhabit the area for exercise. Only recently have the exercise cage rules been changed to only allow 2 people at a time after the cages were called "Thunder Domes" with assaults happening daily. There is only one block, Z, with cells having their own showers, forcing most prisoners to only receive 3 showers a week. And sometimes the SMU will be put on lockdown, sack lunches are the meals for weeks, leaving prisoners hungry and bird bathing in their sinks to remain clean.

There are 4 phases prisoners must go through to successfully make it out of the SMU taking many months in each Phase to complete. In each phase certain assignments are given by workbooks from the psychology department to complete for advancement, and in turn the prisoner must not get into any kind of trouble or face the possibility of restarting the program. Like the new Federal CMU's (Communication Management Units), the SMUs are special prisons designed to isolate prisoners from the outside world. All aspects of a prisoner's life is monitored and up until phase 3 to go to recreation or medical the correctional officers must cuff the prisoners through the tray slot in the door and escort them to their destinations.

All communication is monitored, no contact visits are given until one has fully completed phase 4 and returned to general population at another USP. Up until then, in phase 1 and 2 visits are conducted via video monitor, and through glass for phase 3 and 4. Few phone calls are allowed, and photos can't be taken to send to loved ones until reaching phase 3. In such a confined space, even with cellies, prisoners become incoherent, their minds break down mentally, thoughts become confused, speech is difficult and you'll stutter and not be able to complete sentences, many go paranoid and irrational and plot against each other and fights break out due to panic and nerves breaking.

How do I know this? Because I was there! I lived through it, and experienced it first hand. Luckily I successfully completed the SMU after being their over 2 years and I'm currently in a Florida prison. Upon arrival here it literally took weeks to calm down from my anxiety being overcome with noises, crowds, people moving around and near me, and not being confined in such small spaces for hours and days on end. Just think of the prisoners who are released from Super-Max's to the streets!

The SMU's, CMU's, ADX, and other facilities like Pelican Bay for the "worst of the worst" are terrible places which destroy prisoners lives, relationships, family ties, as well as our minds. Slavery and torture exists in the United $tate$ within the prison industrial complex, especially in such programs as I luckily made it through. Please, let's shut them down!


MIM(Prisons) adds: Prisoners on food strike in California Security Housing Units will be lucky to receive the type of program that exists in Pennsylvania SMUs as a result of their current struggle. This just goes to show that reforms in these long-term isolation prisons are nothing but reforming torture. We echo the Pelican Bay prisoners' call for an abolition of torture. And ultimately, we must replace the current injustice system with one that serves the people and works to rehabilitate those who have truly committed crimes against the people.

chain
[Prison Labor] [Pennsylvania]
expand

Pennsylvania Keeps Prisoner Pay Low, Commissary Prices Rising

This is my second state incarceration since 1988. PA is already known as a "prison state" (29 state prisons and $600 million "found" to build 3 more soon with no end in sight). I am also all too well aware of how unorganized and for the most part uneducated the prisoners in these human warehouses are. PA's solution has always been "build more prisons."

The highest pay rate for prisoner jobs is 42 cents an hour. Those who are fortunate to get a job in one of the correctional industry shops (see bighouseproducts.com) can receive bonuses. These pay rates have been the same for more than 10 years, yet the commissary prices increase quite regularly.

chain
Go to Page [1] [2] [3] 4 [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]