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.

[Control Units] [State Correctional Institution Camp Hill] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 6]
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Oppression at Pennsylvania's SMU

Oppression in Pennsylvania's plantation "Special Management Unit" is at an all time high. This is where the so-called worst of the worst convicts are sent, but it's not for any form of rehabilitation but rather to be abused. A lot of strong brothers are being physically and mentally abused in an attempt to break their fighting spirit. Note: the oppressors fear what they can not conquer.

It is said that all those of us who have the mental ability to organize the masses and structure any type of movement for the betterment of the oppressed peoples movement "need" to be locked down.

The abuse at SCI Camp Hill runs deep, to the point where it'll drive the weak crazy. The other day a brother (new arrival) split his own forehead open in an attempt to get transferred. He was taken to medical for 3 days and brought right back to the SMU. I personally have been experiencing a lot of abuse. I'm labeled by central office, under the Security Threat Group as a high ranking New York Blood. Officers use this to confiscate my literature, mail, photos and legal materials (all is labeled gang related).

We are not allowed to buy soap, deodorant, toothpaste, or lotion off of the commissary even if we have the proper funds in our accounts. Every time we request copies of any policies that tell us what we're allowed to have, we're told, 'oh you can't have that in the SMU.' Everything is considered a security risk at this concentration camp.

All other facilities allowed me to have MIM Notes except here. Officials don't follow publication procedures and take it upon themselves to determine what is and isn't allowed. I've filed a grievance on this and a number of violations here including health risks and I'm currently planning to file a class action suit with a few other comrades. Our ultimate goal is to get this concentration camp shut down.

We are currently working with a number of organizations who've been very supportive. I write so that everyone may know the seriousness of the situation. Officers beat brothers senseless in this control unit even if we're completely restrained, wearing cuffs, tether, shackles and restraint belt. This isn't rehabilitation at all but it sure is oppression at its worst! Still in all, we remain strong and focused on shutting this joint down!

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[Abuse] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 6]
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Brutality in Pennsylvania

I was recently sent to the suicide observation cell due to a renegade C.O. I've always had problems with telling lies about me being suicidal. After 2 days of telling the proper people I wasn't suicidal, they called for a "cell entry team" to remove me from my cell by saying that I was still a danger to myself as well as others. The "cell entry team" was getting ready to enter my cell without cuffing me first (which is against policy) and I just so happened to look at the officer holding the camera and he mumbles the words "they are gonna fuck you up!." Later I found out that that wasn't a warning at all, that was for me to have knowledge before hand that I was about to have my brains beat in. Upon hearing that message I thought was a warning, I went to the door and looked into the camera and stated, "I am not refusing to come out, I am also willing to comply with being cuffed and moved to another cell without any problems." Once that was done that messed their whole game plan up to try to assault me.

Once I got cuffed I was ordered to get on my knees, to which I complied. Then once the door was buzzed open I was kicked in my back so hard I went face first towards the marble floor. Once they completely entered my cell I had one officer who made his way over top of my head and repeatedly used his knee to assault the back of my head. Once all that was over, instead of putting me in another cell as I was told, they put me in 5 point restraint chair for an unbelievably painful 8 hours. The straps across my upper body were the worst, they were pulled so tight I passed out after about 2 hours and when I woke up my whole eight hours was finished. I had to get medical attention due to cuts and bruises from the straps.

I filed a grievance on it and now I'm waiting for the first response. We all know that even though I have this whole incident on video it's still gonna get shot down by the DOC to try to discourage me from going all the way with it. I'm filing a lawsuit and I will not settle until justice is met.

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[Prison Labor] [Pennsylvania]
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Prison Labor at SCI Fayette

SCI Fayette has about 1800 to 2100 prisoners, of those 1200 to 1400 work for the DOC doing various work assignments. Jobs are related to running of the facility, such as maintenance, commissary, grounds crews, schooling, laundry, barber shop, library and janitors. Some also work for "Correctional Industries." The pay scale is as follows in $/hour:

Step AStep BStep CStep D
Class 10.190.200.210.23
Class 20.240.250.270.29
Class 30.330.350.380.42

People usually work from 120 to 160 hours per month, so top pay would be $50.40 to $67.20. Correctional Industries (CI) makes 51 cents or about $81.60 a month. Like similar programs that exist in all 50 states, Pennsylvania Correctional Industries produces things such as furniture, clothing and personal care products primarily for purchase by state agencies. However, on their website they claim they are unique in that they are completely self-sufficient. Like most examples of "industries" in prisons, they allow the state to save money, but there is no private profit being made.

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[Control Units] [Pennsylvania]
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Control units in NY and PA

I see that comrades are working on producing a movie that exposes the corruption which is taking place in control units all over the country. Hence, I would like to take the time out to touch on some of the things that I've seen and experienced in these types of confinements.

I've done time in New York and am currently trapped in Pennsylvania. Between the two, I've been in five control units, and know of several more. I can't remember the addresses to the ones in New York because it's been some years since I've been there. However, the names of the ones I've been in are Southport, Marcy S-Block and Lakeview S-Block. I know of others in New York such as Malone's Upstate, Green S-Block, Cayuga S-Block, Collins S-Block and Fishkill S-Block.

In Pennsylvania I was in the now defunct Long Term Segregation Unit (LTSU) which was at SCI Fayette (PO Box 9999 Labelle, PA 15450). It originally opened in 2000 at SCI Western but was moved to Fayette in 2004. That so-called "program" was totally shut down in 2007 because of the barbaric conditions. It was since converted into what's called SMU (Special Management Unit). I was never in the SMU at Fayatte, but I was in the SMU at SCI Camp Hill (PO Box 200, Camp Hill, PA 17001).

New York is designed just to be a Control Unit. It has 1200 people in the Control Unit, then an additional 300 people to do the cooking, cleaning, etc. Marcy, Lakeview and the other S-Blocks in New York are units built at "regular" prisons and confine 200 people apiece. Southport is predominantly a Control Unit, but I don't know the head counts.

The SMUs in Pennsylvania are units built at "regular" prisons and hold about 70-something people each. The LTSU was a unit within "regular" prisons and housed 40 people.

In terms of the national/racial make up of the people in the CUs I've been in, I would estimate that they all had about 90% Black/Latino and about 10% white.

The ways that the CUs are run varies, especially from state to state. Nevertheless, they are all different from the "regular", "holes", "boxes," or whatever the 23 hour/day lockdown units are called in each state. One of the biggest differences is that these CUs have several levels that a person can be on and these levels determine how many privileges are supposed to be afforded to them. For instance, in the SMUs in Pennsylvania, people on Phase 5 cannot have personal pictures, newspapers, magazines and many other things. The LTSU was the same way on levels 4 and 3.

Often times, persons with mental health issues are placed in these CUs, at least in Pennsylvania. It is not uncommon for them to bang on their desks, toilets, etc. for many hours at a time being as they can't deal with the confinement. Many even throw feces, urine and vomit on other prisoners and guards.

Several people enter these CUs with no history of mental health issues, but develop them while they're in there. They begin banging on things all day as well as throwing feces, urine and vomit. Suicides/attempts are not uncommon in these units.

Many guards antagonize prisoners and deny them food trays that they are supposed to be given. Or they may put things such as dead mice in the trays.

The physical abuse from the guards is a common thing. They sometimes beat handcuffed and shackled people bloody. They'll even do it while video monitors are recording by yelling "stop resisting!" to make it seem like they're to restrain a person.

They also have restraint chairs that they put people in. These are chairs in which people are strapped down for hours at a time - in Pennsylvania it's for a minimum of eight hours. People have been known to urinate or defecate on themselves while in these chairs.

These are just some of the things going on in these CUs. People have filed numerous grievances and lawsuits about the things that are going on, but for the most part there have been very few changes made. Usually a person's claim of being denied a food tray is dismissed as being "frivolous," or something of that nature.

I think it's a good idea to expose to the public what is actually going on behind these walls. Not only in Control Units, but in these neo-plantations in general. I will be of whatever assistance I can.

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[Control Units] [Organizing] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 4]
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Using time in control units for the revolution

As they keep moving me from penitentiary to penitentiary I can’t help but realize that the majority of prisoners serving indefinite life and death sentences in control units are Black and Latin brothers who, due to their lack of knowledge, had their rights violated and like myself were railroaded and ambushed by this corrupt injustice system, and eventually thrown into these control units. I consider these human warehouses, where we die a slow agonizing death.

I am one of the very few who has managed to maintain my sanity. And rather than serving this tortured time, I’m having this time serve me by educating myself and as the sun bringing light to all corners of my circumference, waking up all those who have been sleeping in the graveyard of ignorance, to unite and assist in organizing a revolution that will bring an end to the oppression of all groups over other groups, classes, genders and nations.

I agree with those who believe that crime is the bad oppressive things we do to each other. The more people you hurt and oppress, the bigger the criminal you are. So the big criminals in our country are the bourgeoisie – those who are rich while others are poor, those who make profit from other peoples misery, street crime is a very small part of all the crimes committed each day in comparison to unemployment, homelessness, discrimination, bad education and bad health care.

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[Spanish] [Pennsylvania]
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Michigan represión contra Indíginias

Saludos hermanos y hermanas de MIM. Los saludo a todos por su trabajo revolucionario en educando y liberando las mentes encarcelada del mundo. Yo soy otro rehén encarcelado por beneficio en la prision maxima de Marquette Branch y estudiante del pensamiento comunista. Estoy presentandoles este papel que escribí para mi grupo en luz de mis estudios y reflejos sobre la historia en Americanos Nativos. Mis esperanzas son que les pueda ayudar a brillar una nueva luz sobre el comensamiento del la colonización americana y evocar discusión y más estudio como lo ha echó en mi circulo.

Yo atendo, al igual con otros hermanos, el servicio "del camino americano nativo" y recientemente cuando al fin llegamos junto a construir con significativo, y con el escarnio de la institución, afirmandonos que nuestro 1 y 14 derechos de enmendiamiento de la constitución esta bajo ataque. Y no es que tenemos fe en una constitución que todavía sancióna esclavitud, pero nuestra lucha diviera alamar ciertas comunidades, especificamente los americanos nativo, ya que es una larga y vieja guerra de supresión a nuestra tradición y costumbre nativa.

Nosotros ya tratamos de resolver este problema atravez de la administración y sus remedios de agravio y todo más pero estos son los mismo enemigos que controlan todos los processos de agrivio y reedios administrativo. Los mismo agentes fascista que interrumpen nuestro servicio con comentarios como "en america hablamos inglés." Mientras nuestros hermanos rezan en su lengua nativa. A nosotros regularmente no sueltan de nuestras celdas tarde y no podemos conducir nuestro servicio formal. También cuando tratamos de obtener nuestros articulos permitible para conducir nuestro servicio en su maneraadecuada, nos la confiscan.

Ellos hacen lo necessario para impedir la asistencia con intimidación. Si uno pide asistir el servicio, primero recibes una visita de una trabajador de pandillas, que te informará que el servicio es conducido por padilleros y que si tu participas te pondrán bajo investigación de amenasa de seguridad.

Nosotros hemos escrito a las naciones locales aqui en U.P para mas apoyo de afuera pero lamentablemente no hemos visto unidad entre los Americanos Nativos possiblemente por la intimidación de estas instituciones corruptas. Pero comoquiera nuestro circulo es fuerte y nos unimos cada semana para intercambiar cultural, intelectual, espiritual, y siembral semillas revolucionarias. También tenemos debates, discussiones, asignaciones y presnetaciones oral. Esperamos tener una relación con MIM(Prisons) y los tendramos al dia con nuestros assuntos ye materiales revolucionarios.

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[Control Units] [Pennsylvania]
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Virginia's supermax at Red Onion State Prison

This letter is to inform you that I too was an inmate in Red Onion Supermax prison when it first opened. I too witnessed the horrors that occurred there in the name of the state of Virginia, and this barbaric device that this country has embraced throughout this land called Super-Max's.

There are a couple more facts I would like to pass on to your readers, I was blessed when I was able to read the copy [of Under Lock and Key] that I did, for it was passed on to me with knowledge I was there [in Red Onion]. I could not, in all my self-conscious, sit back knowing the information I do, to think "it's not my problem", "I'm not there no more" to abandon my brothers there. You must get it out of your head, it is not just Black, white, brown, yellow, that matters, because if you follow that line of thinking then you have already lost the battle. To divide is to conquer, and that is just the play they did to us. For I not only am a convict, I have lived through the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s in and out from these walls. I was there during the riots in the system to get the things to better our way of life in here, only to watch these "inmates" come in here and waste the blood that was shed during these uprisings.

In all my time I have never seen such barbaric living conditions within walls. Sure it was brand new, clean and good food, but the threat of someone shooting you for something as simple as turing around to go back to your cell because you forgot your lighter, to light a smoke. Anything at any time could get you shot. "Just being Black," "a white dude getting along with the brothers" (you were hated by these hillbillies), to come to someone's aid, better not even think about it.

Remember that the DOC of the state of Virginia put this prison so far west in the state it was nearly impossible for one from the Richmond, Virginia beach area to come that distance to visit. This area they put these two prisons in were at one time coal mining regions, well those fell through, and since the new economical booster for any depressed area are prisons, they put two of them there. These folks know nothing but coal mining and hunting. Now they put them in charge of these prisoners, give them guns, and tell them if they get out of line shoot them. And they took that to heart and opened up.

There were no jobs, library, law library, schooling, trades of any kind. They opened these prisons before they were ready for a safe operating condition.

I tell people here and they look at me like I am insane. Try to make these people believe that this is going on in this country, and they laugh at you. I start bringing out the paper work to prove my point.

Comrades understand there are forces in play that would like nothing more than to lock every one of us away, and they are doing it state by state. Pennsylvania has its own "Super Max" called Greene County. They abuse them down there too, but no guns as of yet.

The beast that ran the Virginia DOC, Ronald Angelone, was the same beast in Nevada's DOC, from what I have gathered he got run out of there. This was done with the blessing of then-governor George Allen. When we first started reporting these conditions to whom ever we could, no one believed us, not even some of our own family. The only one who listened was the United Nations Human Rights Watch Group. Even these folks got run off the property. This is the new vicious and barbaric way they want to do things in here and most other places. In PA the Greene County Super Max has a history of inmate abuses. Sgt. Grainer, yes the leader involved in the Abu Gharaib prison abuses in Iraq, was the lead abuser in the RHU units at Greene County's Super Max in the state of Pennsylvania.

But since he was not charged in state court, and resigned on his own, you only heard this reported one time in the very beginning of the news reports about the abuses over in Iraq, (hush hush hush) never to hear another word about it again. But I was there and I remember. This goes on in every prison system in this country.

Do not think it does not affect you because it does, every time you read a story and think it can't happen to me, I am in a safe place, remember the only qualification that got me sent to Red Onion was I had a life sentence. Nothing more nothing less. Now in PA's DOC they got a new plan, lifers will be allowed to work only in approved areas off the block (cell house). Every system is so full of small timers that the older lifer prisons are being overrun with short timers who do not care and do not see what is coming down the road right into their faces. There is no way to turn this around unless we protest in a nationwide effort. Could you imagine the impact on this system, and the world reports that every prison in the country is on some sort of protest strike.

As I have known for years this is the new beginning of something even worse. Think big brother isn't watching? That is because you are too busy crying me! me! me! We got brothers of all peoples being beat, killed, and abused each and every day, in every state of this country. Poor health care, mental care, and then they want to disrespect your people when they come to visit you, to even abuse them. They are arresting our people right in the visitors parking lot for violations, all to discourage the family units from staying together. When are you going to raise your voice and make a stand? This is just the beginning of horrors to come, and believe me they are coming!

Remember when they decided to take DNA from the sex offenders, for the protection of our children and females? Well then they said why not lifers, how about violent offenders, we might well as get all felons, now it comes to the point where if you have committed any crime they want DNA. Have you been watching of paying attention to the news, they can get your peoples DNA to get you. There is no end to their madness, the new thing is putting electronic taggs in the children, next is the sex offenders, then lifers and every convicted felon, and parolees too Must I go on? The lesson is to open your eyes, as long as they have you divided into sub-peoples, whites, Blacks, reds, and browns, and fighting and killing each other. Then they have nothing to worry about for all your hatred is directed at each other instead of at them where it should be, they would be in fear if that was the case.

There are no truer words, it have been practiced by the peoples of every country, race, in war and out of war, throughout time: divide and conquer. It's us against them, you must take a stand, make a choice, make up your own mind. Stop the madness of going against each other. It's time to wake up brothers! We don't want to be divided, we want to be united! It's the only way, or the blood and lives given by those who came before, were given in vain.

If you have any questions, new information about Red Onion, or want to put someone in touch with me such as an attorney who is defending something there, please feel free to contact me here. I know it is very difficult for attorneys to get in there to see their clients.

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[Abuse] [Pennsylvania]
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Repression in Pennsylvania prisons

The Under Lock and Key (Nov 2007, No 1), MIM Theory 10, and Aug 2006 MIM Notes couldn’t have come at a better time, for at that very moment I was in extreme need to hear from others who agree that merikkka’s system of injustice – when it comes to the universally poor and oppressed – is not only justifiably contemptible, but is yearning for a well placed, organized and strategic foot in their ass.

I read of the fantastic and revolutionary things MIM does in California – especially at the Bryant Street Jail, and High Desert State Pimping where D-facility got together in protest.

I’m definitely for ending the oppression of “all groups over groups” and do not claim to have all the solutions; therefore do not mind being a soldier. Neither do I really care about the method of ending oppression of all groups over groups; only the progressive results. I’m trying to cook up a recipe for change in Pennsylvania, but we need like-minded outside support to help us stir up the pot.

When I received all three above I was at SCI Cresson. I’m now at a security level 5 unit at SCI Houtzdale where in 15 months of disciplinary time I’ll be sent to the super maximum unit at SCI Green County where free-thinking political prisoners – such as myself – have been boldly killed. Green County is Pennsylvania’s Pelican Bay.

On February 1, 2008, while out in the so-called general population I was accosted by twenty white racist in black riot gear after respectfully trying to report to a lie-utenent that one of his officer’s discriminated against my disability, called me a nigger, and made comments with homo-sexual innuendos that I did not approve of. In the process of the riot team trying to extract me from my block so that I could be isolated for further abuse, one claimed that I stabbed him twice, while another claimed I hit him with a blunt object. I’m winning in the courts, about to take down a prominent judge, I never had a misconduct before this incident, I’m very studious and charismatic. Not only do I find their timing odd, but it is no coincidence that they charged me with just enough to qualify me for a life sentence under the unjust three strikes law.

If this isn’t enough to point out that we need a revolution in Pennsylvania, SCI Cresson can only flush their toilets twice.

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[Medical Care] [Prison Labor] [Pennsylvania] [ULK Issue 2]
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Fees keep prisoners from needed medical care

Recently the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, in conjunction with Prison Health Services, the statewide healthcare provider for the PA-DOC based out of Brentwood, Tennessee, made it much more difficult for prisoners to get medical treatment by increasing the co-payment for medical services to $5. A fee of $5 will be assessed each time a medical service at sick call is provided to a prisoner when seen by any physician, physicians assistant, dentist, optometric professional or other person licensed to provide health care under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Also, an additional fee of $5 will be charged for each subscription that is ordered for the prisoner by an on-site health care professional.

No complimentary services will be given to prisoners, with the exception of prisoners with well documented chronic care issues: HIV/Aids, hepatitis, hypertension and diabetes.

With the average wage paid for a prison work assignment here in Pennsylvania of 19 cents an hour, 4 hours max a day, many prisoners are letting their illnesses go untreated. They are unable to pay for medical services and buy bare necessities like toothpaste, deodorant and shampoo from commissary! Frequently prisoners are deliberately given medication subscriptions that do not improve or fully restore them back to good health.

Under DOC policy DC-ADM820, there should be no additional fee when this takes place, however a prisoner still must fill out and sign a DC-138 cash slip for follow up sick call visits, and these signed cash slips are being forwarded to the facility business office for fee deduction from the prisoners account.

The prisoner can use the grievance system to try to recoup these deductions, however the odds are small that fee will ever be credited back to the prisoners account. This is just one of the many ways the executive administration of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections manipulate the prison population into handing back over the slave wages they work all month for.

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[Legal] [Control Units] [State Correctional Institution Houtzdale] [Pennsylvania]
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Retaliation for filing grievances

Here at SCI-Houtzdale, there is little or no action taken by the administration when correctional officers or general staff members go out of their way to intentionally mistreat, harass, and do things contrary to department of corrections policy to prisoners who dare to use the Inmate Grievance System.

Retaliation is very common and many prisoners are fearful of getting a fabricated misconduct report and being sent to the RHU (Hole) or having their correctional file sabotaged with misleading information that could harm them when its time to be reviewed for parole.

Basically if a prisoner files a grievance complaining about being mistreated or the conditions here at this facility, within days their name and photo is distributed throughout the institution on the C/Os good old boy network and that is when the harassment starts. C/Os and staff that the prisoner may have never had an altercation with are now openly harassing the prisoner. Cell searches every day, withholding of the prisoner's mail, being intentionally singled out for frequent pat searches when moving about inside of the prison are just a few of the ways COs and staff show their dislike for having one of their co-workers named on a grievance.

A large number of grievances that are filed at this facility, SCI-Houtzdale, are later dismissed as being frivolous. Specially when issues are brought up that the administration is trying to avoid addressing. Responses to grievances are worded on purpose in a way that dehumanizes and makes the prisoner appeal disgruntled in an attempt to discourage the prisoner from continuing on with the appeal process and filing future grievances. COs and staff regularly make remarks to prisoners they are having a disagreement with that has a sarcastic under tone like "you can always file a grievance" knowing that their supervisor will be the grievance officer and will dismiss it. Plus the repercussion the prisoner will fact.

The inmate handbook says on page 12, policy number 804: All grievances and appeals must be made in good faith and for good cause. You will not be punished or otherwise harmed for good faith use of the inmate grievance system. If only these words were true!

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