Prisoners Report on Conditions in

State Correctional Institution Somerset - Pennsylvania

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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.

[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] [Gender] [State Correctional Institution Somerset] [Pennsylvania]
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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.

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