Sunday, June 9, 2013

ACLU of Utah files federal lawsuit over use of tear gas in prison’s mental health unit

From: Salt Lake Tribune, June 3rd 2013:

ACLU of Utah says gas used in mental-health unit to subdue prisoner spread to enclosed cells.

By Brooke Adams
The Salt Lake Tribune, Jun 03 2013

The ACLU of Utah filed a federal lawsuit Monday alleging constitutional rights of inmates housed in the mental-health unit at the Utah State Prison were violated when tear gas used to subdue one inmate spread into other enclosed cells.

Correctional officers fired tear gas on Aug. 3, 2011, after one inmate refused to return to his cell from a courtyard, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Utah. The gas was pumped through air vents into the fully enclosed cells of other inmates, causing burning eyes, lungs and skin. Many inmates thought the wing was on fire.

Read the rest here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/56406088-78/inmates-complaint-gas-prison.html.csp

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Voices from Solitary: “No Wonder There Are So Many Suicides”

From: SolitaryWatch
Dec 17th 2012

The following comes from a prisoner currently housed in maximum security housing at Utah State Prison, Draper. He has spent, by his estimate, seven years in either supermaximum or maximum security housing. He recently had a heart attack in maximum security and reportedly has received minimal health care treatment while incarcerated. He describes here the  Uinta 1 facility, where over 90 inmates are held in long-term isolation. –Sal Rodriguez

I spent the first two years of my incarceration in general population at a county jail. I had my first heart attack while at the county jail due to misdiagnosed Type 1 Diabetes. Despite my repeated attempts to get medical help, the officials repeatedly denied that there was anything wrong with me even though I exhibited all of the symptoms and signs of diabetes. Eventually, the misdiagnosed diabetes led to the heart attack.

I spent nine days in Intensive Care at the University Medical Center before being released back to prison where I was promptly placed in supermax–Uinta 1. I had not committed any violations to be placed in supermax other than having a heart attack.

I wasn’t considered a protective custody case, as I had just spent two years in general population. No reason was given for my being housed in supermax. I spent only a few months in supermax before being shipped out to another prison out of state. Once back in Utah I was once again placed in supermax without due process or reason, and I spent the next 20 months locked down. I have spent about seven years or more now housed in either supermax or max. I have never had any write-ups or violations to warrant me being housed in maximum security.

I can tell you that life in supermax (Uinta 1) is inhumane. There are inmates still being housed in that unit who have been there for eight years or more, who started off completely sane but now have lost all sanity. Suicide was common in the Uinta’s just a few years ago, forcing the prison to take preventative measures by installing new vent-housings that wouldn’t allow a rope to be tied to it for hanging. There is still many suicides that occur there, although its not like it used to be years ago.

The abuses still continue today with some of the torture techniques used in foreign interrogation. Cells are kept cold, lights are kept on 24/7, guards purposely make noise at all hours to prevent sleep.
Windows are covered by a small door that is only opened when the guard occasionally  looks in, as for count. Mental health care is a joke, as the mental health worker goes cell to cell not spending more than five seconds at each door and only asks “Are you ok?” It’s no wonder there are so many suicides. Mental health shows a lack of concern for those in supermax. It’s the general attitude there.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Days in Solitary for Not Moving Cup Fast Enough

From Solitarywatch:

Utah State Prison in Draper, Utah currently holds over 91 prisoners in solitary confinement in the Uinta One facility. They have described the facility as “a place of pain and terror” and a place where inmates “expect tragedy.”

While Utah Department of Corrections admits that the facility on occasion houses prisoners diagnosed as “mentally ill”, they also point to the prisons Olympus Mental Health Forensic Facility.
According to the Utah Department of Corrections website:
Prisons and jails have become primary mental health care providers for mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system. The mental health services provided by the Utah Department of Corrections is comprehensive and wide-ranging in its scope. Our mission is to provide comprehensive and cost-effective mental health treatment to those offenders who suffer from a serious mental illness.
The Clinical Services Bureau manages a 155-bed stand-alone housing unit for offenders with the most severe mental illnesses. This facility is designated to provide a therapeutic environment that promotes appropriate stabilization and behavioral change.
Solitary Watch has been in contact with an individual in the Olympus facility.  In his late 50s, he has been routinely transferred between Uinta One and Olympus for a decade. His medical documents indicate diagnoses for “Paranoid States (Delusional Disorders)…Other and Unspecified Protein-Calorie Malnutrition…Self-inflicted Injury By Cutting and Piercing Instrument” and other health issues. He reports constant harassment by the guards, who he says, among other things, falsely accused him of rules violations.
In support of this, he provided documentation indicating that he was accused of a charge of “Abuse/Misuse Medications” based on “Some Evidence.” He was ultimately found not guilty of the charge, despite not participating in the Disciplinary Hearing.

“When people do wicked things to you and you complain, that isn’t paranoia, it’s circumstance driven. When you refuse to trust those whose conduct does not improve, that’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of active unremitting threat,” the prisoner writes. He reports having been placed in a wheelchair and being “upended onto my face” when the guard pushing the wheelchair “made a typical fast hard turn.” After the incident, he received “No apology from anyone whatsoever…I was told to wait until a nurse came to check on me…back in this cage I sat unmoving. I couldn’t get off the chair and on the ‘bed’…My ears are ringing incessantly…I can’t sleep more than two-hours…My eyes aren’t properly focusing,” he reports.

A month before this, he was found guilty of “Refuse Order” (see image), because he did not “fully and imediatly[sic] comply” with an order to remove an “empty cup and hand from the cuff slider.” When chastised for his behavior, according to the report, he was “disrepectful” to the staff. For this, he was ordered to 20 days in “Punitive Isolation” and assessed a $150 fine.

When asked to provide the policies that guide such punitive measures, Department Spokesman Stephen Gehrke was unaware that such policies are in writing. “I’m not aware whether there is some sort of document or guideline that lists offenses and punishments or repercussions on a case-by-case basis. I believe the response to each incident is specific to the individual details of each circumstance and takes into account aggravating or mitigating factors, which is why the prison employs hearing officers to listen to the offender’s account, review documents, and take into account all other forms of information,” he wrote via email.
“‘This is prison medicine–we don’t care and we don’t have to!’,” the prisoner in Olympus characterizes the approach of the prisons medical officials.

This kind of treatment of people in prison is all too common in the United States. A 2003 Human Rights Watch report estimated that one-third to one-half of individuals in American isolation units were diagnosed with a mental health problem.

As of September 2011, one-third of Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison supermax population had a mental health diagnosis. The individual in Olympus is among many in isolation units who attempt suicide while in solitary confinement.

In 2006, it was noted that in California and Texas, suicides in prison disproportionately occurred in solitary confinement units.

Click here to read more of Solitary Watch’s reporting on Utah’s use of solitary confinement.
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URL to the original article: http://solitarywatch.com/2012/12/13/mentally-ill-utah-prisoner-sentenced-to-20-days-in-solitary-for-not-moving-cup-fast-enough/

Friday, December 7, 2012

Disability Law Center Sues Prison Over Inmate Access

From: Salt Lake City News Blog
Dec 7th 2012
by Stephen Dark


When attorney Aaron Kinikini went to see his client at the Utah State Prison, warden Alfred Bigelow refused him access. Now, Kinikini is suing the Draper prison to let him meet with an inmate.
Suing on behalf of inmate Jeremy Haas, the Disability Law Center has filed a civil-rights action against Bigelow and Utah Department of Corrections Director Tom Patterson—who today announced that he'll resign from his post in January—along with a temporary-restraining-order motion seeking Kinkin's immediate access to Haas. 
Haas was one of four inmates with mental-health diagnoses being held in solitary confinement who City Weekly featured in a story called "Lost in the Hole" in late September.
The lawsuit stems from a Sept. 14, 2012, visit to the prison by Kinikini and fellow DLC attorney Laura Boswell to meet with Haas over concerns about his treatment in the prison. Under federal statute, according to the lawsuit, DLC can conduct abuse and neglect investigations in the prison.
But Bigelow refused Kinikini access because he had two misdemeanor convictions on his record, namely a possession and a DUI charge dating back from 2008. When the attorneys asked what was the legal basis for not letting Kinikini in, given that he was licensed to practice law by the Utah State Bar and the Utah Supreme Court, Bigelow told them, according to the lawsuit, "that he was merely enforcing an 'unwritten practice' of USP and the Utah Department of Corrections." 
Prison PIO Steve Gerhke said that, per prison policy, the UDC does not comment on pending litigation.
While attorney Boswell was allowed to visit with Haas and see his living conditions, Kinikini, who was selected by Haas to represent him, sat outside in the parking, awaiting her return. Barring Haas access to his attorney violated his constitutional rights, the DLC motion argues.
The lawsuit hypothesizes that Bigelow barring Kinikini, a protege of recently deceased civil rights attorney Brian Barnard, reflected an apparently "unwritten" regulation designed to deter inmates from being visited by people who might pose a security risk.
"When applied to Haas and his attorney, Kinikini, this practice is nothing more than an exaggerated, possibly discriminatory, response to generic prison-security concerns," the lawsuit stated.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Private prisons are shameful and Prison profiteers should not be community leaders!


From: National Prison Disvestment Campaign
By: Jesse Fruhwirth
December 6th, 2012

The Utah Democratic Party is on the verge of choosing a private-prison profiteer to be a party officer. Management and Training Corporation vice chair Jane Marquardt is the hands-down favorite to win the race for party vice chair (yep, same job title), which will be held Saturday. 

We want your help in the next two days to persuade the party that private prisons are shameful and prison profiteers should not be community leaders!

While there are many reasons including mass incarceration to oppose for-profit prisons as an entire industry and on principle alone, there are some particularly problematic factors about MTC.
  • What torture? Lane McCotter, former director of Utah Department of Corrections in the 1990s, resigned after it was proven that a 29-year old schizophrenic inmate died after being strapped naked to a restraint chair for 16 hours. Rather than having to find a job in a completely new industry after being disgraced by his professional peers, McCotter was then hired by MTC as their business development director. In 2003, shortly after abuses were found to be rampant in a New Mexico prison under MTC and McCotter’s supervision, he was asked by the US Department of Justice to reestablish Iraq’s prisons, including the infamous Abu Ghraib. According to UK’s Guardian, “McCotter left Iraq to resume his executive job at MTC in September 2003, a month before the worst documented atrocities against Iraqi prisoners occurred.” Terry Stewart, another MTC profiteer, is the former Arizona department of corrections chief and helped McCotter with Iraq’s prisons.

  • Donations to racist policies: MTC has also favored racist immigration policies and politicians. MTC’s political action committee gave money to former Arizona Rep. Russell Pearce, the sponsor of Arizona’s immigration law SB1070 in the months leading up to his sponsorship of that law–Jane Marquardt herself donated to the PAC just months before that PAC donated to Pearce. SB 1070 was written by CCA and GeoGroup, the number 1 and number 2 private prison corporations, allegedly in conjunction with state lawmakers. SB 1070 is one of the most palpable examples of how private-prison industry frequently aligns and its money is used to hire lobbyists to demand more prisoners and bribe/donate to politicians to stoke racist fears in the public for more immigration detentions.

  • Low Standards and Cheap Profits: A 2010 jail-break at an MTC prison lead to two people’s deaths. The Arizona Department of Corrections review of the tragedy reports that MTC prison staff didn’t know how to work the alarm, “staff are not proficient with weapons,” and perhaps most concerning, “it appears that very little action was taken to prepare the physical plant and the staff for the transition (from Minimum security custody) to Medium (Security) Custody in April 2010.” You know, because properly housing dangerous people is really expensive and there are profits to be found in keeping expenses low.
It’s time that people wake up that Jane Marquardt and prison profiteers can NOT buy our respect and should not be allowed to buy political influence.  Indeed, Utah Democrats this week need to hear that prison profiteers should be ostracized from polite society–disinvite her from your holiday parties, Democrats, and certainly don’t elect her to be among party leadership.

You can help: Contact newly elected Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.  He is highly influential and popular and has endorsed Jane Marquardt, even appearing in a campaign video for her.  Tell Mayor McAdams that prison profiteers are not community leaders–they are parasites that suck the life from our families and our communities.  We’ve got two days to change his mind!

Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams 801-618-1946

Also, call MTC, ask for Scott Marquardt–that’s Jane’s brother and boss–he’s the chair of MTC. Tell him that no one from a private prison company should be running for leadership of a community organization.  Tell him we want Divestment from Private Prisons–not prison profiteers in positions of political power.

Management and Training Corporation 801-693-2600


Also, you can litter her campaign Facebook page with messages. Let her supporters know what you think of private prison profits!

https://www.facebook.com/JaneMarquardtForUtahDemocraticPartyViceChair

Thursday, October 25, 2012

“Waiting For The World To Give Us A Reason To Live”: Solitary Confinement in Utah

From: SolitaryWatch, Oct. 24th, 2012
By Sal Rodriguez

Utah State Prison’s Uinta 1 facility serves as the prison’s super-maximum security unit, where inmates are held in solitary confinement. Inmates in Uinta 1 may be there for disciplinary infractions, notoriety reasons, protective custody, or because they are security/escape risks. The unit is divided into eight sections with twelve inmates in each section, for a total of 96 maximum inmates. Currently, there are 90 inmates in Uinta 1. The Utah Department of Corrections, in response to a government records request by Solitary Watch, claims it has no records regarding its use of segregation.

Several inmates have recently written Solitary Watch about the conditions in Uinta 1.

L., who has been in Uinta 1 for five months and previously served 28 months there, reports that he is only able to leave his cell three days a week, for a shower and 1 hour alone in a concrete yard. He reports that, in being transported to a 15 minute shower, “we have to wear a spit mask over our faces and handcuffed from behind with a dog leash hooked to us.”

“The rest of the time except on the shower days we are locked down in our cells with the door window closed so you can’t see out,” he writes.

A., who has been in Uinta 1 for a year, adds that, “just the other day, the [Correctional Officers] came and shook our cells down and took away all of our hygiene. They took away shampoo, lotion, conditioner, everything…they also don’t give us anything to clean our cells with.”

A. is in Uinta 1 for his own protection, following what he says was a decision to leave gang life after much “self-study.” Despite this, he says, he is treated as if he committed a  serious offense.

Inmate Brandon Green, who has frequently written on the conditions of Uinta 1, describes the environment in Uinta 1 as reinforcing a vicious cycle in which inmates placed in solitary usually end up back not long after they are released. Green, who has been in Uinta 1 for five years, previously served 18 months in Uinta 1 before a brief period on parole before returning to Utah State Prison. He has been held in Uinta 1 following an escape attempt and refusal to take psychiatric drugs, which he says will only harm his health.

“So alone. So much internal turbulence with nothing like T.V., radio, magazines or conversation to hide [this pain] beneath,” he writes, “a man leaves this place to go to general population or to a less secure facility where you have electronics and a cellie. You can just count down the months before he will return…We learn we can do without anything. And we become content with nothing. The more they take away from us year after year, the more family disappears, the more one doesn’t want to go home, doesn’t want a wife and a job and bills and an Amerikkan future…It is like waiting for the world to give us a reason to live. But the world just keeps giving us reasons to not give a shit.”

This situation leads many inmates to report severe mental health problems that are aggravated by the long-term isolation. The prison routinely responds to such crises by placing suicidal inmates in a strip cell, where they are to be alone in a cell with  and checked every fifteen minutes. Included in many of these cells are cameras.

L. writes that “if someone is gonna kill themselves they take them and out to a strip cell and you sleep on the hard floor and treated like a dog.”

A. reports that “if I lose control because of something I have no control over, they’ll punish me and put me on strip cell for three days…when a mentally ill inmate feels suicidal, they send us to the infirmary to be on suicide watch…then we get from suicide watch back to Uinta 1 and the staff put us back in the strip cell when we get back to Uinta 1.”

In Uinta 1, suicide is not an uncommon occurrence. In 2009, two prisoners in Uinta 1 committed suicide. One was Danny Gallegos, who was found hanged in his cell in June. Another was a friend of Green, Spencer “Spider” Hooper, a “Pink Floyd fan and singer on medications for schizophrenia and depression.” Months after a previous suicide attempt, Hooper was found dead in February 2009, hanging in his cell.

A. and L. also independently confirm that sandbags at the cell doors of inmates gather bugs, which enter their cells. “They got sandbags around all the cells but never pick them up and clean under them so there’s all kinds of bugs and dirt that comes right under our doors,” A. writes.

Green also writes about the declining array of services provided to Uinta 1 inmates. “Years ago indigent captives received five envelopes a week. Now its one. We had five outside contacts a week. Now one. We used to be fed enough to stay full. Now we are starved. We used to have shampoo and lotion. Now we don’t. We grumble for an hour each time something is taken from us. Then move right along to inventing the creative willpower to survive with no penpals and mail, a full stomach or clean hair. Moving right along. We expect tragedy.”

Solitary Watch will continue to report on Uinta 1 as more information becomes available.

Brandon Green welcomes letters. His mailing address is:
Brandon Green #147075, Uinta One 305, Utah State Prison, PO Box 250, Draper, Utah 84020. His blog, updated by an outside supporter, can be seen here.

Lost In the Hole: Mentally ill felons locked in own hell

The Salt Lake City Weekly published a 4 part story about Uinta 1, Utah State Prison, the supermax, where we have been publishing stories about written by one of its inhabitants, Brandon Green. A few years ago, we knew they were planning to write about the situation inside this draconian hellhole, and finally they did.

Written by Stephen Dark, posted in the SLC City Week Sept 26th, 2012.

Here is Page 1

Page 2

Page 3

Page 4

Please also read: http://www.cityweekly.net/utah/blog-24-8503-inmates-leave-the-hole.html

NV/UT Solidarity

NV/UT Solidarity
Nevada Prison Watch

Freedom March USA

Freedom March USA
Freedom March USA: For the wrongfully convicted! October 2nd, 2010 in a State Capitol near you!