From the Anchorage Daily News:

Attorneys representing accused murderer Joshua Wade are alleging Anchorage jail officials have violated the inmate's rights by repeatedly opening privileged mail from them.

This not only violates the Department of Correction’s own policies and procedures, but federal law. Here is a quote from a corrections officer to me here in Alaska, “We don’t go by those federal laws here and your attorney doesn’t know what she is talking about.”

In a motion filed last week, defense attorney Suzanne Lee Elliott claims that three times since October state Department of Corrections staff have opened his incoming correspondence, including one package marked in red ink with the words "Special legal mail. Open only in presence of inmate."

The package arrived opened and with a Post-It note attached saying, "Opened by mistake. Mailroom," according to Elliott's filing. In other cases, the packages were opened and the contents repacked before their delivery to Wade, despite being marked as being from his attorney, Elliott alleges.

Elliott claims one of the opened packages was sent two weeks after she wrote a letter to Anchorage jail Superintendent Debbie Miller advising her of the lawyers' concerns that mailroom personnel were violating their own policies.

Elliott asked a federal judge to order Anchorage jail officials to appear in court and explain why the charges against Wade should not be dismissed "because of continuing violations of Wade's right to counsel."

Federal prosecutors had not yet responded to the motion Saturday. A Department of Corrections spokesman did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Department of corrections officials generally don’t respond when they have yet another violation of their own policies and civil rights of prisoners, they are kept on a tight leash. The reason for this is they support these violations as it is their real standard operating procedure, the published policies of the DOC are just for show.

The opening of privileged mail has been going on for a long time at the DOC and the officials in Alaska have known about it and have remained completely silent on the subject, because they support it. Once again the federal government has to step in for prisoners in the state of Alaska to get even their basic rights. I am very thankful. In Alaska inmates will never be able to even file grievances about the abuses in the prison system without some kind of intervention.

When I was wrongly imprisoned at Hiland Mountain C.C. in Eagle River I received emails from a public defender over a period of several days which were held onto by the DOC and not given to me. Inmates can’t send emails even to their attorneys, but can receive them only from attorneys. I only received them after I got this attorney on the phone by chance and she told me about them. Her office is the one that screwed up and did not tell me about the hearing I did not attend. This resulted in the judge issuing a warrant to have me arrested. Then I called several P.D. offices and was not told that office was not representing me anymore. I spent days calling all over trying to find out what the hell was going on. She had sent emails most likely because she was embarrassed as she had already lied to me to get me to take a plea deal and now her office screwed up and got me wrongfully arrested. I suspect this has something to do with the private practice position she was offered in Nome with the husband of one of the public defenders there. When the DOC finally gave me the emails they said they had problems with their equipment. I bet they have those "equipment' problems non-stop. They also should allow a special room for phone calls to attorneys where there is no recording device, a privilege which I observed is only allowed for certain people.

Like I have said many times before the DOC is totally out of control. The policies are not adhered to and many of the corrections officers are brutal, love to psychologically torture inmates, and their maturity level is about junior high school age. One of the main concerns I have is the horrible treatment of mentally ill legal offenders at Hiland Mountain and the withholding of medical care from all inmates in all facilities, including refusal to give needed medication. Having a prison orchestra is lovely, but really should be secondary to basic civil rights, job training, college education, inmate rights, parenting training, chemical dependence rehabilitation, mental health counseling, and medical care. Has anyone seen the orchestra at any concerts other than Christmas? I’m curious.

They also only allow one religion in the prisons, Christianity, and the inmates get special privileges who participate in it. There are special 'christian' so called rehabilitation groups which are affiliated with the Alaska prisons. They are in partnership with the Department of Corrections.  There is no seperation of church and state at the DOC. Joe Schmidt was appointed by Sarah Palin and allowed to remain even when the majority of the corrections officers did not want him in charge of the department.  Alaska Correctional Ministries and Kairos Prison Ministry International, Inc are an integral part of the Department of Corrections in Alaska as is the Transformational Living Community(TLC)  which is a faith based prison unit. Yes, it is run in the prison system. They are training the inmates in the prison system to be 'christians'. This is one of the many reasons they like to have the prisons full. How much of our taxes are going to fund these programs?

When the process of our justice system is thwarted by those who think they are the judge and jury it harms all of us.  When they tamper with the rights of the accused they are tampering with the foundation of our justice system. This can put someone who allegedly committed a horrible crime on the streets or in some cases put the wrong person behind bars, destroying their life(including their children, parents, and spouses), and leaving the real perpetrator to re-offend. When the civil rights of a person who is imprisoned pending a trial are violated it harms the civil rights of all of us. Attorney client privilege is such a basic right in the U.S. system of justice that to have it violated on such a grand level as has been done in Alaska for so long is a sign of a government which is based on tyranny. The DOC was never in good shape, but when Sarah Palin made her buddy Joe Schmidt the commissioner it was to bring the ‘christian’ right to the prison system. Their beliefs about prisoners are very radical. Books have been removed from the prison system about other faiths and the books in the lending library are censored, using security as an excuse. Schmidt's appointment was to insure these programs would continue to operate at the DOC.


A. Prisoners have certain rights relative to the conditions of their confinement that have been
recognized and are mandated. These rights include:
1. Single or double cell occupancy, and/or supervised dormitories;
2. Clean and orderly surroundings;

This is usually provided because the inmates clean their own surroundings.

3. Adequate toilet, bathing and laundry facilities;

Not provided to the women who are housed in the gym at Wildwood in Kenai where there is one toilet and one sink for 20 to 30 women. The toilet is in the same room they eat in. They have to be taken to another area for showering.

4. Adequate lighting, heating and ventilation;

The mental health unit at Hiland Mountain had very poor ventilation. It was so hot in there that a night nurse was giving us ice until someone found out and put a stop to it. No danger of anyone being on psychotropic medication that could cause death from heat as they don’t allow medication. In the orientation unit at Hiland Mountain the room was so hot that my room mate and myself got physically ill. I was yelled at for asking for the handle to open the window and was given the wrong one and told it was just not working right. Later I found out they did have the right handle to open the window and just withheld it. Autistics do not see well or feel well under florescent lighting.

5. Compliance with state, federal and local fire and life safety laws and regulations;

All prisons are dangerous for inmates if there is a fire due to lack of ability to get away from the fire.

6. A wholesome, properly prepared, nutritionally adequate diet;

Sugar filled, white flour, crappy, and unhealthy food is the usual situation in prisons.  At Hiland Mountain they did have a garden in the summer with lots of vegetables. The diet at Wildwood was pretty bad. This is one of the reasons people who come out of prison look so bad, they can’t get healthy food to eat. Nutritional supplements are banned in Alaskan prisons unless you buy them from the prison corporation that sells them to the DOC and they are very limited supplements. There are unhealthy snacks sold by the prison corporation. They do not allow coffee or tea in the cafeteria at Hiland Mountain yet dispense soda. Coffee  and Tea have some health benefits and soda does nothing but harm health. Why are they paying for that crap? If an inmate brings a piece of fruit to their cell to eat later they get into trouble yet potato chips and candy bars are allowed.

7. Health care services comparable in quality to those locally available to the general public;

This is completely ignored by the DOC and many people including myself have been harmed, some have died. They will not allow most inmates to have their medications. I have watched women have seizures from having their seizure medication abruptly stopped. Then the corrections officers laugh at them, mock them, and tell them they are faking. These are prison staff who have very little training and of course are not health care professionals. It is very unsafe and quite strange to allow this to go on. I also had a woman in a cell next to me go into full arrest and the staff was confused and did not know what to do. They would not let me out of my cell to start CPR on her. She was finally intubated by paramedics and removed from Wildwood on a cart.

The so called psychiatrist at Hiland Mountain along with the psychologist should not be practicing and should immediately be replaced. They are abusive. The psychiatrist can’t diagnose Aspergers in a female and abruptly stopped my medications which was very dangerous on many levels. She also does not treat women who are clearly very psychotic. The psychologist came to my cell door while I was very distraught(bordering on suicidal) about being arrested for something I did not do, knowing my cat was being starved/tortured, and my possessions stolen and said, “You don’t have a mental illness, you are just arrogant and nasty”. I have seen six different psychiatrists not counting some other mental health professionals since then who say I have PTSD and depression. Of course the reason for this is inmates are not treated as human, they are seen as subhuman. Little did they know I would be “arrogant” enough to tell the story and sometimes in my anger and fear for the inmates still there I can even be “nasty” about it.

8. Access to both indoor and/or outdoor recreational opportunities and equipment;

This happens in some areas. At Wildwood, the women in the gym are rarely ever permitted to go outside and there are no recreational activities at all. I am sure this is true in many areas of the prison system, like segregated prisoners who are often mentally ill. Segregation exacerbates and causes mental illness, add lack of exercise, poor diet, and it gets even worse(exercise and healthy diet are the best treatments for mental or physical illness, also essential in a population with chemical dependency recovery issues).

9. Access to clergymen, religious advisors, publications and related services which allow prisoners to adhere to legitimate religious practices;

What is the DOC’s definition of a “legitimate religious” practice? It is a Christian religious practice. In fact I specifically asked for other materials when I realized there was nothing but Christian material. Those who go to Christian activities get special privileges.

10. Visitation with legal representatives and other visitors in a visiting area which is limited only by those institutional requirements necessary to maintain order and security;

I have no first hand information as I never was visited by anyone at the Public Defender Agency even though their error was the reason I was wrongfully imprisoned and they promised on two occasions they would come. At Hiland Mountain there is an outside visiting area.

11. Communication and/or correspondence between prisoners and other persons and organizations limited only as necessary to maintain order and security;

They use the excuse of security to limit mail, magazine subscriptions, books, etc. In fact at Wildwood they tell inmates they can’t have newspapers which is against the law. I know because I asked three times and got the same answer every time. They did consent to my bringing ten books with me and then would not let me have any of them.

12. Institutions shall not place limits upon the volume of a prisoner's incoming and outgoing mail except that limits may be placed on mail used by a prisoner to conduct business activities. Institutions will pay postage for up to five first class letters pertaining to legal matters per week for prisoners with insufficient funds.

Yet, they do limit the amount of mail.

13. Prisoners shall be permitted to receive paperback books, newspaper clippings and magazines from any source subject to inspection for contraband and a determination that the material would not aid in escape or incite violence;

I was told I could not order newspapers and magazines while at Wildwood and none of the ones I wanted had information which would have had anything to do with how to escape or cause riots.

14. Each prisoner, except those in punitive segregation, shall be permitted to complete telephone calls;

They frequently take phone privileges from inmates for ridiculous reasons and the phones go to very limited places decreasing the ability to get bailed out or get legal help. Several times I was told they only had to allow me to make a call every three days. When the staff in the mental health unit tried to get me put in administrative segregation the parole officer rated me the least dangerous type of prisoner and told me she recommended open population for me so I could get on the phone and get help. They then put me in an orientation unit where they limit phone calls and a C. O. told me he was going to keep me there eighty something days when I told him he was violating my constitutional rights by keeping me from the law library. They have a private company charging crazy fees for long distance calls. They tried to put me in segregation for several reasons which had to do with the first amendment and to keep me from calling outside to report what was going on in the prison.

15. Pre-trial detainees shall be housed separately from sentenced felons, except when they waive the right by the exercise of a Prisoner Housing Waiver (form 20-808.05A) and agree to be intermixed because of work assignments and/or institutional programming;

This never happens. Just like everyone has seen with Joe Arpaio the clothing in prisons is used to shame the inmates. At Hiland Mountain the mentally ill are forced to wear red which many of them are embarrassed about.

16. Pre-trial detainees, except those in punitive segregation, shall be eligible for participating in educational programs, religious services, and counseling;

What counseling would that be? Oh, I see the religious services are your counseling. That is how it works in a faith based prison system. The education program is very limited.

17. Pre-trial detainees, except those in punitive segregation or in administrative segregation pending investigation of a disciplinary infraction, shall be permitted to wear their personal clothing except under circumstances where security considerations require a clothing restriction;

They never allow people to wear their own clothing.

18. Freedom from discrimination is a basic right extended to all prisoners. Programs, activities, services or assignment shall not be denied or granted any prisoner based upon discrimination;

They forgot to add, unless you aren’t a 'christian', you have health problems, are mentally ill, have a communicable disease, are educated/intelligent, or are familiar with any of the constitutional amendments which apply to inmates.

19. A safe environment shall be maintained for prisoners;

Huh. They put a violent psychotic woman in a cell with me hoping she would harm me. I guess they did not know I used to work with mentally ill legal offenders. I actually worked in Competency Evaluation and Treatment for a long time where we had to evaluate violent inmates before treatment for legal reasons. Putting women in a gym and leaving the lights on 24 hours a day is very harmful to their health. It decreases the ability to get restorative sleep and weakens the immune system which is very important to have functioning at optimal levels when you are crammed in small spaces with lots of people. In fact the whole system is very harmful to health, physically and mentally. This is one reason people come back over and over, they are so harmed by the prison system they can no longer function in society.

20. Personal choice regarding grooming and appearance shall be limited only by institutional requirements for safety, identification, hygiene or security;

At Highland Mountain there is a crazy corrections officer who will not allow women to put their hair back with rubber bands, even though she has a head full of braids held with rubber bands herself.

21. Each prisoner shall have access to a Prisoner Handbook which sets forth institutional rules, procedures and prisoner conduct;

There was one for about twenty women at Highland Mountain and none at the other places I was at(I was taken on a tour of the prison system when I was wrongfully arrested which is a form of psychological torture). The second time at Hiland Mountain I got some photocopied material which I used as a resource for writing grievances to their chagrin.

22. Prisoners shall be permitted access to broadcast media through radio;

The only radios prisoners can have are personal listening devices which can only come from the prison corporation which supplies the DOC, making the price higher than many can afford on the small amount of money they make working in the prison.

23. Prisoners shall be permitted to visit with news media representatives once media access request procedures have been completed;

No information about any difficulties with this process. I would imagine they would block it as twice they tried to put me in administrative segregation to prevent communication with the outside.

24. Every prisoner confined to an institution is entitled to report and file a grievance in accordance with established procedures;

I was constantly filing grievances and they would disappear. Even the medical/nursing staff did this and they were the ones who tried to get me in administrative segregation for it. That is one of their "established procedures". At Hiland Mountain the forms became “unavailable” for a while and at Wildwood the staff would not give them to me after I gave them the first one. I never had one hearing on all the grievances I filed.

25. All prisoners shall be permitted access to an institution's law library or contents;

When they found out I wanted to go to the law library they would take my privileges away so I could not go. They also make it difficult to go by making people sign up to go the day before. If you forget then you can’t go. At Wildwood I was not permitted to go to the law library even one time. Women are treated as second class citizens and have to make an appointment to go.

26. Each prisoner accused of a violation of institutional rules shall be afforded an impartial hearing before a disciplinary sanction may be imposed.

I was not given a hearing in Wildwood after the sergeant dragged me down a hall after handcuffing me for telling the nurse she needed to give me my medication as it had been authorized. They realized they had screwed up big time and they released me. I think the long list of contact information for legislators, civil rights organizations, people at the DOJ, news media, etc. that I brought with me had something to do with that. They also would have had to have a hearing about dragging me down the hall and realized I was going to tell the true story of what had happened to their superiors.


Anonymous said...

This was a pretty good whine...

Celia Harrison said...

My "whining" about the horrid conditions and violations of rights in the prison system in Alaska will never end.

Anonymous said...

Not your business!

Celia Harrison said...

Anonymous 8:39. This is everyone's business. If the policies of the DOC are not being followed and civil rights laws are being violated the public should know about it. The state of Alaska made the mistake of making this my business when they had me wrongfully arrested so they could have me abused in the prison system. If it isn't my business, then who's business would it be?