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[Control Units] [Gender] [Washington]
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WA Control Unit Inventory

MCC. There are multiple control units at the Monroe Correctional Complex. However, I have never been to any of them.

WSP. There is one at the Washington State Penitentiary that opened over 20 years ago. I have been in this unit and it houses approximately 100 prisoners. The racial make up is approximately 1/3 white, 1/3 Latino and 1/3 Black. The majority of the prisoners are placed in this unit for no reason except dislike by some administrator or guard. This unit has been expanded recenetly but I am not sure to what extent.

WCC. There has been one at the Washington Correction Center for over 20 years. I have been in this unit and it houses approximately 120 prisoners. The racial make up is approximately 1/2 white and 1/2 Black. The majority of the prisoners placed in these units are for no reason except dislike by some administrators or guards.

CBCC. There is one at the Clallam Bay Correction Center that has been open for about 20 years. I have been in this unit and it houses approximately 220 prisoners. The racial make up is approximately 1/3 white, 1/3 Latino and 1/3 Black. This unit is split into three units (D, E and F) and expands into the general population units as needed. For example, D, E and F units are full, then a portion of B-unit will be appropriated as part of the control unit. As the need diminishes, then B-unit goes back to general population.

It is my belief that the state plans to open more control units and that some are currently under construction.

Control units house mostly mentally ill prisoners that are tormented by the guards. Many gays are forced to live in the control units by the guards and are harassed by the guards. Lots of gang members are in the control units for associations but no rule violations. The control units are used for punishment for prisoners that guard do not like. It is very difficult to watch the guards torment others. It is very difficult to get out of the control unit once assigned there.

I have spent approximately 10-14 years in a control unit in the past 28 years of incarceration. I do not dare make an actual calculation for fear of the mental impact of the reality. I recently spent a year in isolation in a control unit for refusing to have sex with a female guard and complaining about being punished by her for it. It is all a matter of public record if you have interest in the matter.

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[Control Units] [Medical Care] [Arizona] [ULK Issue 4]
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Budget cutback on meal menus

Recently, as of May 2008, we Arizona prisoners have had another cutback to our food menu. DOC has now started "a heart healthy diet" and has managed to cut back, even further, our calories. This is on top of the cutback we have automatically in lockdown at this control unit. This clever budget cut has been hidden behind platitudinous drivel aimed at protecting our best interest as health issues. As vegetarians, we have been especially hit hard, losing up to half or more of what we had before. The usual procedures allowed us are a waste of time in protesting this recent farce of economy shaving being perpetuated against us prisoners under the pretend guise of our best interests.

A heartfelt thanks for letting the voice of us prisoners be heard and let known generally amongst the publik. From this AZ gulag, up the system, strength in solidarity!

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[Control Units] [California] [ULK Issue 4]
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Bad food, no visits, and locked down in California

I am currently at Calipatria State Prison however I must say it does not matter what prison you are in because all of them are corrupted the same way. I’m sure you know the things they have already taken from us, which started in 96-97 by taking away weight lifting and family visits for lifers. Then eventually they took pornography, tobacco, the yard privileges were shortened, canned food and personal packages as well, we’re not even allowed personal jeans. Then they even changed our prison state issue clothing to cheaper and more ridiculous uniforms.

The food value is absolutely disgusting and even if it’s an ok meal it has no flavor since they don’t use salt or even offer single salt packets like they used to. The portions are absolutely a minor’s portion that will not fulfill a grown man. Not many of us have people or family members to send us money for store so we rely on state food which leaves us hungry after 5pm. The menus they pass out may sound good but it’s a scheme to show people out there we are eating good. They say certain calories are all we need to survive, however to be hungry: isn’t that cruel and unusual punishment, especially since we are supposed to be living in a civilized country. They say it’s a free country but whether you’re a prisoner or not, there are no rights because every right we have the system seems to have a loophole around it. The latest violation against us now is they are rigging the plumbing system to flush only 2 times every 5 minutes.

Another issue that is really hurting the prisoners is for them to be housed in special housing units which is an all day lockdown with a few hours a week out of your cell. You can be put in the SHU because of a picture or ethnic belief if you are Mexican and have art of your ancestors and forefathers in your cell the prison considers that gang activity. Right now I’m in an administrative housing unit and for us to actually get our yard it has to be less than 108 degrees outside or yard is canceled. We are sent to cages which only give room for you and your cellie, which is basically what the dogs go through when they are put in a pound. Most of us in here always wait much longer than what we were supposed to be here for, it’s just so they can keep these new ASUs open. I’ve been waiting to be put in general population since January, but they say no room.

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[Control Units] [California]
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Prisons create violence

I am writing to thank you for your introduction letter. I find your material very interesting. I have spent about 10.5 years in the SHU. I was not violent when I was first put in the SHU. I now face murder charges. I believe solitary confinement has made me and other inmates in the SHU violent. No contact with the outside world has changed us for the worse. We have become institutionalized, not rehabilitated.

When I entered prison for petty theft I was not a violent person. After years of incarceration and being around violence, I’m now accused of killing my cell mate, before that I have been found guilty of numerous counts of violence. I take full responsibility for my actions but I do place blame on the system for mixing non-violent offenders with violent offenders. Prison is supposed to be a place for rehabilitation, inmates who parole are likely to return due to lack of education, if you are housed in the SHU you will not receive any education or rehabilitation, so when such an inmate paroles he has no chance.

I do not know what I can do to change the system but I hope people will read this and write administration to promote education in the SHU and the system. Violence against each other is not the answer.

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[Control Units] [Virginia]
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Red Onion Supermax report

I am an inmate at Red Onion State Prison. This camp is the state of Virginia's only super maximum security prison. Myself and others go thru all the difficulties every day here that are listed on your "Unlock the Box research." Red Onion Prison is located in the southwest region of Virginia. Honestly, this region itself is redneck region. Some of the locals haven't seen nor had to actually deal with any persons of color til this concentration camp opened.

I've been placed at this camp since Nov. 7th, 2006. There are roughly 1500 persons here, some pods hold 22 or 44 persons to a single cell. There are 2 pods that hold 22 cells that are two man cells, these cells (pods) are called progressive housing. These are supposed to be special privilege pods. Everyone has to go into these pods (phases) before transferring. You also have to be 2-3 years charge-free before you can even enter one of these "special privilege pods," and the inmates in these "special pods" still remain on 23-1 lockdown with no programs available or trades. These "special privilege pods" are the same as the super segregation pods, except that someone is in the cell with you.

This camp has been open since 1998 and has more than 100 lawsuits against it. Some are still pending. The national make up is 90% Black, 4-5% whites, and the rest others. When this camp first opened its gates it was all general population, then in 2001 or 2002 it was turned into supermax segregation supposedly for the "worst of the worst." Some guys are here because of stacked minor charges, others have been here since it was turned over to supermax and the powers that be refuse to release them, and then those as myself have more serious charges. The majority are held here for stacked minor offenses.

There isn't a college we can correspond with for further education. There is a half-ass GED/school program that's shown on our TV. The issue with the school is that some people don't have tv's.

The camp hasn't expanded since it opened, only turned into segregation units.

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[Control Units] [New Jersey]
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New Jersey Gang Unit

The last time I was in a control unit was from 2000-2002. It was in Norther State Prison's STGMU, which was the gang unit lock up. The location of this control unit is in Newark, New Jersey. There are various groups in this control unit, and the total population is about 100 prisoners. The national makeup of the population is Latino and Black. The only expansion I believe is that once you are finished with the STGMU ad-seg time, you are given the option to go to the gang-unit program, and if you refuse to participate you may stay in phase I and you are basically in ad-seg without any ad-seg time or charges. At least that's how it was done back when I was there. Now, I heard that you have no choice once you finish the STGMU ad-seg time, they send you straight to the gang unit program and if you refuse you no longer are allowed to stay in phase I. Instead you are given a charge and sent back to the STGMU. In the STGMU you only get to go to rec 2 times a week at most.

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[Control Units] [New York]
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SHU conditions at Upstate Correctional Facility

I have been in Upstate Correctional Facility plenty of times, and it is a double bunk control unit called Special Housing Unit.

There is about 800 to 900 people contained in there. 90% of the facility is SHU, the rest is porters that cook and serve the food trays and do the laundry. The double-bunk cells are large because it's a room for two and your shower is in the cell as well as a rec cage in the back of your cell. So basically, you never leave the cell unless it's for a visit, hospital call out or release from the box.

The national makeup is 50% Black and 50% Latino. There are numerous prison rule violations to be placed in SHU, for example: assault on staff or on convict, gang lessons, dirty urine for drug use, weapon possession and all of these must be a tier three ticket. Anything lower , like a tier one or two ticket don't go to those SHUs. So a tier three ticket is considered a serious offense.

This unit is the largest in NYS, and it opened around 1999. The SHUs in NYS have expanded by opening smaller ones that hold 200 convicts. They are still double-bunk and they were built behind medium security facilities throughout the state. Many are empty and a big waste of tax-payers money.

I have not heard or read any memos about new SHUs planned for NY, I hope there are not. We need some schools and social programs, not control units that are hardly occupied.

These control units are very dangerous and hazardous to the minds of convicts who are mentally weak and they lose control and become self-destructive. There were instances where a convicts bunkey almost killed him and tied him up. They put you in a cell with anybody, a perosn you never met in your life and who knows what ill intentions he might have, it's a surivival of the fittest!

They feed you small portions of food, so that prisoners lose lots of weight. The visit are behind a chicken fence gate that separates you from your visitors, so there is no real humyn contact. They put brothers on food and water restrictions, they censor our magazines and books thoroughly and most times violating our right to periodicals that don't pose a threat to security. These control units should be shut down because it doesn't reduce prison violence and its a waste of money and hazardous on the mind.

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[Control Units] [New York]
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Report on Upstate Supermax

Currently, I am in a Supermax, what you refer to as control unit/ solitary confinement/ the box.

There are five buildings. Each building has three blocks, each block has two galleries and on each gallery there are twenty-five cells. Within each cell there are two prisoners. In total there are fifty people on a gallery- 100 people in a block - 300 people in a building.

The exception is that one of these buildings are occupied by cadre. These cadre are the workers. These workers are akin to those of a beehive, they're the lifeline of the facility. They clean the facility, and basically maintain it so that the facility is self-contained.

The four other buildings are strictly occupied by prisoners who are locked down, like myself, for 24 hours. A single prisoner might occupy a cell depending on that prisoners prior disciplinary history in the Special Housing Unit. Being that when one is locked in the box, we are liable to take anyone as a bunky, on several occasions people have been killed and some times even raped. Fights are common because of the frustration and being forced to double bunk with someone that you're incompatible with.

Upstate was built in 1999. It was the last Special Housing Unit that I know of that was built within the past 9 years. There are several more SHU buildings throughout New York State.

As far as the racial makeup, my observation & analysis is based on the numerous facilities i've been in, whether solitary confinement or group population. More than 50% of the prisoners are Black, 30% are Latino and the rest is made up of whites and those of Asian descent. This ratio also holds true for Upstate (which is where i'm at). More than half the cells on each gallery is occupied by Blacks, then Latinos. Many galleries have no white prisoners, if there is two cells on a gallery occupied by whtie prisoners, that itself is a large number.

The way that the system of pairing prisoners works is like this: People are put together based on their race - Blacks can only bunk with other Blacks (there are exceptions if a prisoner bunk goes to population e may request to have someone in the cell, but that doesn't mean the request will be granted). Latinos are bunked with Latinos and whites with whites. Now, Latinos and whites are allowed to be bunked. Basically, Blacks must be bunked with Blacks and all the other racial groups could be bunked together.

I doubt that the state plans to open new facilities for two reasons. (1) Organizations such as MIM have been putting a lot of pressure on the state to close the SHU. There has also been pressure around the fact that many of the prisoners that are locked away in solitary confinement should be put in psychiatric facilities. (2) Another reason is that many prisoners are receiving harsh sentencing to solitary confinement for minor infractions - anxiety attacks is a common one. This is a result of the tenure of Governor Pataki whose "tough on crime" rhetoric allowed him to build more prisons. More prisons were built in Governor Pataki's tenure of two terms than at any other time. Within the past 8 years several jails have been closed and many of those being incarcerated are parole violators who are recycled back into the system. So it is harder to justify the need for so many SHUs.

Unfortunately, I don't have the articles any more, but i have read a couple of journal articles on the harmful effects these units have on humyn beings. In reality there is no value to these prisons, except to control prisoners. They use them to break us down. There is nothing rehabilitative about this place.

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[Control Units] [Washington]
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Washington Supermax report

Greetings from the oppressed in the state of Washington's 2nd fully operational 'Supermax' gulag. Since i've been imprisoned here by the fascist pigs and imperialistic/racist government and state powers, the conditions have deteriorated a bit. Currently, we are fighting the pigs, A/C's (assistant cooks), CUS (custody unit supervisor, CO's (pigz) and the Unit Sgt. concerning the quality/quantity of our food. We're being given food that is just reheated from servings 2-3 days previous and lacking enough nutrients to benefit us (ie. 2000 calories). We also have no real outside yard access. We go out to a 10' x 10' concrete box, with an iron screen mesh high up on a wall that only allows us to get a strip view of the sky. The ventilation in our cells blow hard air 24/7. Our cell lights stay on 24/7 (count-light). [MIM(Prisons) adds: this unit was just opened in October 2007 as the first certified "green" prison building in the state]. All of our cell functions (toilet, hot & cold water, lights, air conditioning, heating) are controlled by the pigz in a control/monitoring booth. The water we sue is "re-claimed" water, water already used, and our showers have inadequate pressure & heat. When placed in the showers we're put in a cage with open front were both male and female pigs that are walking around can view us taking showers. Since i've been here, i've seen 3 cell extractions with the "Goon" squad, OC [pepper spray], electrified shields & tasers. They've also moved 2-3 guys of my current tier to ISO for no apparent reason other than filing grievances or complain about conditions or lack of general issue items.

I've heard through the grapevine that the fascist pigz are looking at out-of-state a prisoner chain of 500 (slaves) to be shipped out to MN, AZ, CO, KY, and IN in the next 12 months. I can't confirm this, but i am looking into it.

As far as statistics on the number of people in control units in Washington, i cannot verify numbers for Clallam Bay, Stafford Creek or WCC for Women, but i can clarify and confirm for the following prisons:

McNeil Island has three (3) control units, each unit is single cell, 23hr. lock-down. Each unit holds approximately 30 prisoners, for a rough total of 90+. One pod (unit) is seg, 1 pod is IMU and 1 pod is Mental Health IMU/seg combo.

As for Washington State Penitentiary (WSP), they have an ASU/seg unit that holds 195-200 prisoners on 23 hour lockdown. They (WSP) also has a new 1500-2000 bed CC "state-of-the-art" housing unit that just opened, a 96 bed IMU, and a new "supermax" IMU/ASU that i've been told holds 199 prisoners. WSP also has an medical/mental health 14 cell (1 man) capacity housing. Then they have a SHU, which is where the mental health/protective custody and death row prisoners are housed and it's a 260 bed capacity with another 24 cells for seg overflow.

As for Monroe Correctional Complex, SOU/SOC are the same facilities. SOU(Special Offender Unit) is for Medium/Minimum inmates with a 600+ bed capacity (1&2 man cells), SOC (Special Offender Center) is CC for mental health/sex offenders with 4 units; 2 (CC) with 72 bed, 1 man capacity and 2 IMU/ASU with 72 bed, 1 man capacity. The new "supermax" Monroe Correctional Complex-IMU has 120 1-man 23hr lock-down IMU "supermax" housing cells and 120 ASU-"supermax" housing cells. This is one of two new "supermax" units that opened in the last 6 months. Monroe also has a Seg/ASU unit at Washington State Reformatory (WSRU) with 100-115 bed, 1-man cell capacity, 23hr lock-down. Meanwhile, the WSRU-SHU is medical/psych long-term housing with several 100 bed capacity. Also at MCC, the Twin Rivers Correctional Unit(TRU) has a 20 bed "Temp" seg unit.

Washington Correctional Complex at Shelton has an IMU/Seg unit with 144 1-man cells and a 6-man ISO unit known as COU (Crisis Observation Unit).

These figures are as close as possible, and the units are ALL control/long-term ISO with the exception of WCC Shelton COU and TRU's seg unit. Airway Heights also has a "SMU" (Special Management Unit) Seg which has 45-60 bed capacity of short-term ISO. Again, most of these figures are very close as i've either been there before or someone has come through here and let us all know what's going on elsewhere.

a comrade in Monroe Correctional Complex IMU

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[Control Units] [New York]
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Understanding Solitary Confinement

UPDATE: On 9/17/2009 the comrade who wrote this letter was killed in Attica Correctional Facility

True solitary confinement - it's general concept, ultimate purpose, and all of its myriad applications - must be exposed to as many concerned citizens as is possible. Media, cinema, and corrections spokespeople have all contributed to distorting our society's perception of this shameful and torturous practice that has been a facet of this country's history since it's earliest years.

Amnesty International has defined solitary confinement as "all forms of incarceration that totally remove a prisoner from inmate society", elucidating further that "the prisoner is visually and acoustically isolated from all other prisoners as well as having no personal contact with them." But even this definition can forfeit the consideration of other variations of confinement that similarly and adversely affect the prisoners who are imprisoned in them. Professors Craig Haney and Mona Lynch concluded and supported with irrefutable evidence from the study they conducted that solitary confinement refers to a broad set of conditions, including single-celled control units where even some semblance of communication between prisoners is somehow feasible, double-celled control units that produce conditions of both isolation and overcrowding simultaneously, control units where prisoners are subjected to sensory overload as well as sensory deprivation, and control units that impose "small group isolation." The effects of solitary confinement in all of its manifestations within this country's prison system have been recognized by numerous authoritative analysts, as well as their impact upon society as a whole. Studies of this phenomenon, empirical and with scientific experimentation, have been conducted and recorded as early as 1790.

With this in mind, terms such as "punitive segregation", "restrictive housing", "segregated housing", "special housing", "administrative segregation", "disciplinary confinement" and "control units" have all been used to designate constructed environments that employ what are essentially conditions- whether in part or whole - of solitary confinement. Despite their differences, all of them serve similar ends in that all of them employ torturous conditions as punishment rather than rehabilitation.

I have been a prisoner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services prison system for approximately fifteen years to date. I have spent at least two-thirds of those years confined to the system's special housing units (SHU) for lengthy and continuous periods at a time. Recently, former New York State Governor Eliott Spitzer signed a bill into law that provides for mentally ill prisoners who have been sanctioned with disciplinary confinement penalties exceeding thirty days to be removed from conventional SHU's and placed in newly constructed "therapeutic units." The majority of these "therapeutic units" are actually conventional SHU's amended with rooms designated for therapeutic group programming and individual therapy sessions. The rooms are fitted with "cubicles" that amount to small single-occupancy cages, to restrict prisoners contact with program instructors and each other during "therapy." Whether this arrangement is a genuine and sufficient departure form conventional SHU to ward off mental deterioration fostered by the conditions of the various forms of solitary confinement seems to have escaped adequate forum for public debate.

One of the worst SHU's I have been confined to, by my estimation, is the notorious F-Block at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, New York. I remained there for just over a year.

In their State of the Prisons report on conditions of confinement in 25 New York correctional facilities, published in 2002, the Prison Visiting Committee of the Correctional Association of New York described the SHU at Great Meadow CF as "... one of the most unsettling we have experienced. Many of the inmates were mentally ill and confined in cells behind thick metal doors or bars covered with Plexiglas to protect staff from "throwers." Most striking was the pervading sense of chaos and the way in which inmates with mental illness are isolated, cut off from human contact and caged in barren, concrete walls. Animals in zoos are kept in more humane conditions... the more stable inmates spoke of the constant yelling and noise on the unit, the stench of feces and sweat, and the lack of ventilation." Although the SHU capacity had been reduced since the time of that report, the conditions aforementioned were certainly prevalent even during my confinement there in 2004 and 2005.

With the draconian measures put in place by the Bush administration as a device of its purported "war on terror," and a look to the conditions under which prisoners designated as enemy combatants are being held in at the detention complex in Guantanamo Bay by the U.S. government, I do not see that the use of solitary confinement is being diminished at all. Rather, I foresee that it will expand and morph into forms less conspicuous but more insidious, cultivated with and nurtured by the incitement of mass hysteria and the greed of profiteers.

After clarifying the general concept, myriad applications and ultimate purpose of solitary confinement, this information must be conveyed to the concerned active citizenry. The concept, applications and purpose of solitary confinement serve to control and inflict suffering upon a segment of the population through isolation and deprivation. It does not nor has it ever served to rehabilitate or improve the condition of society.

sources: "Regulating Prisons of the Future", by Craig Haney & Mona Lynch, 23 NYU Rev. L. Soc. Change 447 (1997).
"State of the Prisons" Report, June 2002, by the Correctional Association of New York.
"Enemy Combatant" by Moazzam Begg (the New Press, 2006).

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