There is a control unit in every prison in Pennsylvania, and I've been in three of them so far. In every one of them I have personally witnessed or been affected by mistreatment by the guards. I was in Camp Hill when the guards opened the windows, which are about 3 feet by 4 feet, when it was around 20 degrees out and left them open all night. I filed a grievance about this and the response was that they opened the windows to reduce germs. I was forced to stay in a cell with a blanket that was nothing but a bunch of strings and had a lot of holes and spaces in it. I could not sleep due to the fact that I was shivering so badly all night long. When I would breathe out, I could see my breath in the air.
I have also personally witnessed several beatings by the guards on prisoners. Somerset was one of the worst that I have seen, as the Corrections Officers there seemed more apt to assault a prisoner. I saw one guy who was handcuffed and had a big yellow rope attached to him get punched in the face several times by a sergeant while still restrained. He ended up with a big black eye and several bruises on his face, as well as severe rope burn on both wrists.
Pennsylvania is notorious for abuse of prisoners. They cover everything up. The medical staff also changes dates on their paperwork and does not place all of the information on the medical reports. This is all an effort to cover up all the abuses. I was in the Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU) at SCI Somerset for 8 months. In that time, I personally witnessed at least 10 assaults by staff on prisoners that were handcuffed. I am now in SCI Mahanoy. I have been to the RHU here a few times. I have also witnessed assaults here on prisoners that were in handcuffs. The guards will not even try to assault a prisoner unless they are handcuffed.
I was also placed in the RHU for absolute lies. The staff here can place you in the RHU at their discretion. All they have to do is put on a write-up that you used foul and abusive language or threatened them. It does not matter if that is what happened or not. The hearing examiner will not call any of your witnesses to the hearing. They give us a witness form only because they have to. It is just a waste of paper. You are guilty before you walk through the door. The hearing examiner here will even tell you if you do not plead guilty to whatever is on the write-up, that they are going to place you in the hole for the maximum time for each and every charge on the write-up. So most people just plead guilty to get a little less time in the RHU.
The RHU here is also 23 hours in and 1 out. We only get 1 hour of recreation during the week, and that is only if the guard feels like taking you out. Then we are strip searched before we go out and then have to stand in the cell handcuffed until they get around to taking us out. The guards here also take pleasure in burning us for showers and recreation time. They will even burn us for meals. They simply yell out "Refused!" when they get to your cell with the food trays. It happens here all the time.
I was even sexually assaulted by a staff member here, named Ms. Longo. I reported it and requested the state police, as in the handbook it states that I have that right. They refused to call them. Then they hurried up and wrote me up saying that I was stealing several jelly packets. I don't even eat the jelly here. They did this to discredit me and then they actually fired me from my job in the kitchen. Then that same staff member was accused of doing the same thing to several other prisoners and she still has her job. I made several complaints against her prior to this whole thing and nothing was ever done.
Longo constantly curses at prisoners, which is an offense that a prisoner would go to the RHU for. Longo on a daily basis calls prisoners "pussies, cunts, bitches, faggots, mother fuckers, assholes" and several other things. She also had several complaints about her doing "pat searches," during which she likes to grab the penises of the prisoners.
She is in her late 50s or early 60s and has bowel issues, so she needs to wear a diaper. She constantly poops herself and then just stands there. This is also in the food service area, as she works in the kitchen. When on a serving line with her you are stuck in a very small area with very little air flow. It is about 10 feet by 30 feet in the serving line. She stands by the door to the serving line, which is where the air comes from. So the smell just travels all through the line and lingers. We are forced to stand there and smell and breathe that nasty stench in. This is cruel and unusual punishment.
We have all complained about Longo's mistreatment and swearing at us, as well as the smell of her going to the bathroom in her diaper. The prison won't do anything about it. These people here are all related or neighbors. They all know and protect each other no matter what. Pennsylvania put this prison and two others in this rural area on purpose. They know this is a small community and that the staff will protect each other. The prison never has Ms. Longo here when there are inspections or visitors to this prison. It seems she is always off on those days. They will not have her here for anyone to see from outside this prison.
They will also not allow us review of any security tape if we report an assault by a staff member. It seems there is never a tape unless it is used against a prisoner.
Pennsylvania is one of the most crooked prison systems in the country. That is why they had a riot at SCI Camp Hill. They were afraid that a riot was going to happen here a few years ago. There have been several staff here taken out in handcuffs since I have been here. Even one of the superintendents was taken out in handcuffs for sexual harassment of another staff member. They think that they can get away with anything here. They even tell prisoners here that if you put your hands on a staff member "we will beat you all the way to the hole." And they have done this since I have been here at least five times. I have seen blood from prisoners all the way up the walkway. We can see the guards beating the prisoners while dragging them up the walkways. They punch and kick them while other guards are dragging them. They do this in plain view of the blocks so that we can see it out the windows.
MIM(Prisons) adds: Many prisons are built in rural areas where the staff is mostly white and tight-knit if not blood related. Prisoners are generally shipped from metropolitan areas to these back country prisons where staff have no cultural awareness or exposure to non-white people outside of their occupation. This combination inevitably leads to all levels of staff protecting each other against grievances from prisoners who they seen as less than humyn.
For more articles on this issue check out...
Dixon's Disabled done wrong
Find Your Strength
The Pigs Feed at the Lockdown Trough
My Environment! Real as it gets!
Prisons Used as Political Tool in Rural Communities