Retaliation for PREA Report in PA
I am an incarcerated person in a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections prison named SCI Somerset, located in Somerset, Pennsylvania. An incident happened on 9 January 2017 at 1600 hour count (4pm). The regular 2-10pm Sergeant (Sergeant Baserman) and Officer Reesman were walking past my cell to conduct inmate count. After they passed I needed to use the bathroom, so I turned my back towards my cellmate (so I wouldn't get a write up) and faced the door. The Officer and Sergeant came back around to go up the stairs, which is by my cell. Sergeant Baserman, who was second to go up the steps, stopped on the 3rd step and looked directly over at me. As soon as I noticed I yelled "do you mind I'm using the restroom" the Sergeant continue to watch me until I was finished using the restroom.
Later the same evening I sat down and wrote out what happened and asked to file a PREA report (Prison Rape Elimination Act) against Sergeant Baserman. I placed this in a plain white envelope and addressed it to the PREA Lieutenant, DL Abbott. Three days later I went to be interviewed by Lieutenant Abbott. He stated he was going to pull the camera footage. In the meantime I would be interviewed by the Psych Department to see if mentally I was okay, then interviewed by the Pennsylvania State Police. Within a week I saw both the Psych department and the Pennsylvania State Police. The Pennsylvania State Police said during my interview they couldn't find any video footage but would go back and look again. I heard nothing after that interview.
About a week later I went on writ for court to SCI Benner Township. I was gone for almost a month. The day after I came back I was called up and served with a misconduct. I was written up because they say they couldn't find camera footage and said I made up a story. A week later, I went in front of the hearing examiner S. Wiggins. Despite never having another misconduct on me or even a block card (a negative housing report) and being a model prisoner, this hearing examiner still found me "guilty" and sanctioned me to 30 days cell restriction, which is total confinement away from general population.
My family then emailed the facility PREA Coordinator Mr. Allen Joseph (also a deputy here) asking for his help in regards to this misconduct. A few days later he called me over to an office, along with my unit counselor, and states he had gotten an email from my family and didn't care if we chose to expose the conditions of the prison as my family had stated. He stated also that I deserve the punishment I received. After this meeting I returned to my cell. Let the record reflect, that I was still on the same housing unit with this Sergeant and there had been nothing but retaliation since that with the Sergeant. My family also contacted Central Office for PREA, who also stated this prison is in the wrong.
For the record, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Inmate Handbook, which is given to every prisoner when arriving to their home prison, page 7, section 8, Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) DC-ADM008 number 2, the last sentence reads "you will not be retaliated against for reporting an incident of sexual harassment or for providing witness testimony." This prison has clearly violated this and continues to violate this and many other PA DOC policies. They interpret policies the way they want and enforce them how they want. Even Superintendent Wingard does nothing to help the situations in here and instead helps make it worse by sticking up for his staff whether they are right or wrong. Please take a stand with me and expose these prisons on their intolerable wrongdoings and let them know they can't get away with this. Join with me and take a stand!
MIM(Prisons) responds: This comrade exposes what we've heard from other prisoners: the "Prison Rape Elimination Act" or PREA is at best ineffective and at worse turning into a tool for abuse and retaliation against those who attempt to make PREA reports. We need to continue to expose these situations. And we ask our readers to chime in on whether there is a better tactic we should consider to fight these abuses. While we often try to use the law to our advantage, filing reports and lawsuits even when we don't expect to win, we are hearing more stories of retaliation than victories using PREA.