Referring to prison guards:
"Cruelty is a kind of cowardice. Cruel laughter is the way cowards cry when they are not alone, and causing pain is how they grieve." Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.
I am happy the ADN finally printed a story that shows how deceptive the administrative officials at the Department of Corrections are here in Alaska. In other words, what they say and the reality of what goes on in the prisons do not jive. I am also grateful to the ACLU for continuing to work for the rights of inmates. What is it about that name Joe being associated with Sarah Palin and lying? They do not follow their own policies, they are just written for show.
From the ADN:
Three Alaska men who federal prosecutors say were sexually assaulted by a fellow inmate at an Anchorage jail were ultimately the victims of a failing prison system, attorneys at the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska charge.
This is certainly not the first episode of multiple rapes in a prison in Alaska. I did not see or hear of sexual assaults while incarcerated, there was no way the women in the prisons would have put up with it. I did have staff put a violent woman in a cell with me. It was not corrections officers who did this, it was staff in the mental health unit, nurses, social workers, psychologist, psychiatrist. I don't know which of them actually makes the decisions about placement of inmates. They were very nasty when I complained that I was in a dangerous situation. I also complained that because of some of her behaviors that inmate was a danger to herself. Nothing was done to protect either of us all night. It was an appropriate and very fast acting corrections officer that just happened to come by who removed her from the cell the next morning. With all of my complaints about the system and the abusive C. O.s there were some who were very professional and even treated the inmates respectfully. Also let me state that I am very pro-union and even worked to help organize unions in the past, but have huge issues with corrections officers unions. I especially dislike them for lobbying with private prison corporations to get draconian laws passed to increase the numbers of people incarcerated and for preventing states from searching the C. O.s for drugs when they come to work. It is mainly the prison guards who bring the drugs into the prisons. If I was a member of their union I would be asking the others why they had a problem with keeping the drugs out of the prisons. They also do a good deal of the raping. Some of them are bigger criminals than the worst inmates.
From the ADN, 2008:
Correctional officer accused of sex abuse. Five jail inmates, claiming they were victims of “long-term sexual abuse behind bars,” are naming a correctional officer as the target of their allegations in a lawsuit filed this week, according to a KTVA Channel 11 story. The story, which names neither the inmates nor the guard, says the offenses occurred in the Mat-Su pre-trial facility and in the Anchorage jail from March 2006 to the present.
Attorney Hugh Fleischer, who is representing the inmates, made reference to his intent to file the suit in an ADN story last week about an inmate who says he was sexually assaulted repeatedly by another inmate. Fleischer told Channel 11 that his clients in the case against the correctional officer complained last year but nothing was done. The officer is still on duty. Four of the five who brought the suit are also still behind bars “convicted of crimes ranging from murder to rape to theft,” according to the story.
Emphasis by me.
A union for Alaska's corrections officers says the ACLU is absolutely correct.
Note the corrections officers union only speaks out when the C.O.s themselves are affected. If they have publicly complained that the lack of staffing and other problems in the prisons are a danger for the inmates I have not heard about it. At this point in time the axe is most likely going to fall on whoever made the decisions about placing vulnerable inmates with a predator. The union seeks to protect them. There are some nasty people working for the DOC who like to cause pain for the inmates, this could have even been done on purpose, as in the incident I experienced. They will deny and lie, and cover up, they always do. There are some incredibly good people working as corrections officers, but there are also some evil people who make life hard for everyone. The kind of people who are bullies with issues that love to have someone to look down on are ripe for harming people on purpose. However, we have no evidence this was done on purpose, it may have just been poor judgment, poor procedures or continuation of the generally ignoring a lot of the policies.
But the state Department of Corrections denies any overcrowding or understaffing exists in Alaska's prisons and jails.
This is a blatant misstatement of facts. They always compare themselves to states with huge populations and say the prisons here aren't over crowded. I experienced overcrowding myself at Wildwood Correctional Facility where women are treated as second class citizens. The administrative personnel at the DOC like to tell the public all of the women in Alaska go to Hiland Mountain, this is not true. They just don't want anyone to look into the conditions women live in at Wildwood or maybe places I don't even know about. The ACLU's report on the prison system in Alaska also addressed the overcrowding, stating there are prisons in other states more crowded. This will change in Alaska gradually as nothing has been done to change draconian laws passed during the private prison push for more prisoners. Other states have gone bankrupt in great part due to the huge numbers of prisoners they were housing. It sounds like nothing has changed since the ACLU report.
The female overflow inmates are housed in the gym or actually a half-gym at Wildwood. They have these things called boats which hold a sleeping mat they line up around the walls in the half-gym.. They can be stored and stacked or moved around for sleep. There is a little entry room to the half-gym which has one toilet which just has a screen around it for a large number of women. This is the same room where they have the tables for meals. The women have to be taken down the hall to the regular women's area to shower. So, the women in this setting sleep in these boats on the floor. The light is kept on twenty-four hours a day (causes weight gain and immune system dysfunction) and there are no rules about going to sleep and being quiet so others can sleep. We did not go outside for recreation. I was not taken to a library, they did not give me any of the books I brought with me (the books in the Hiland Mountain library were crap, I assumed Wildwood might be worse) nor could I have read in that very loud and crazy environment. They do not allow ear plugs. It was like being at a pajama party for bratty junior high girls because many of the women were coming off drugs and alcohol which causes sleep problems.
I was moved four times (each time being told I was going to Nome for a hearing...never happened) which is a tactic used to prevent inmates from communicating with media, attorneys, family and friends. It is frequently employed against detainee's of the INS. It is even more devastating if used on a person with Aspergers because change causes us anxiety. At the Anchorage jail there were six of us jammed into a small cell. We had just enough room to lay mats on the floor if they were all touching. We got along just fine. I was never in open population except at Wildwood in the gym and that is not exactly a normal circumstance in a prison. Between my PTSD and great emotional despair because I could not get anything done about the safety of my cat or property I was mostly segregated either in a "mental health" setting or isolation cell during the wrongful imprisonment. I was never allowed in open population at Hiland Mountain, the medical and nursing staff tried to have me put in administrative segregation because I was a "trouble maker." The definition of a trouble maker is a person who files grievances about bad conditions, withholding of medical care, and violations of civil rights, while requesting to go to the law library. A parole officer decided I should not be put in segregation and recommended that open population would be beneficial as I could get more access to a phone and get out on bail to save my cat and property. Instead they put me in an orientation unit and a corrections officer told me he would hold me there for a long time after I complained that he kept me from the law library. I have been told this unit has now been eliminated.
The ado over conditions in Alaska's jails comes on the heels of a federal indictment of Sabil Mujahid, whom U.S. attorneys say abused the three men at the Anchorage Correctional Complex while he is awaiting trial on federal sex trafficking and weapons misconduct charges. The three men or their alleged crimes were not identified in the 12-count indictment released Thursday.
The abuse was made possible because the Department of Corrections has been crowding inmates into facilities and failing to staff the jails and prisons with enough officers, ACLU prison rights attorney Tom Stenson said. That means some inmates are put into cells with aggressive, dangerous cellmates where they are more likely to be abused and less likely to get help from already stretched corrections officers, Stenson said.
As I have said before a lot of inmates are mentally ill or chemically dependent. Most of them are not violent and are not even bad people. The overcrowding and low staffing ratios are not the only problems. I had guards harass me because they found it entertaining. They looked up the DOC records in Washington to see if I had a clearance to work in the prison system there and goofed around. That was not what I would call a busy group. Then in the mental health unit I asked for help, was denied it and the nurse went and read a book. One of the nurses spent most of the night shift in what I assume was the break room accross from their desk at Hiland Mountain. She may have been sleeping.
It should be clear that putting a vulnerable person in a cell with a known predator is going to result in the vulnerable person being harmed. There is no way to call for help in many situations and if you do they ignore you. When I called for help in the mental health unit at Hiland Mountain about the violent woman in my cell the nurse told me she was not my servant. There are some staff who find it entertaining when a person who has caused them frustration is harmed. They also find mentally ill people fun to torment. The same was true when I worked in prisons in Washington. Some officers In WA even brought toy guns to work so they could use them to make noise all night and keep the inmates awake as torture. The mentality is often very juvenile.
"Mr. Mujahid was put in with a very vulnerable inmate. He was put in with somebody with a developmental disability, who is of a slight build, and who was very vulnerable to this type of assault," Stenson said. "That risk should have been apparent."
It would be interesting to know what "crime" the man with the developmental disability had been incarcerated for. Should he be in prison or should he be somewhere else? A man of slight build with no developmental disability should not have been in a cell with such a predator. In fact a sexual predator of this kind should have been housed in segregation until it could be determined if a safe cell placement could be found for him.
But while the specific allegations against the 53-year-old Mujahid are serious, there are systemic problems with Alaska's prisons that need to be addressed, Stenson said.
Many factors contribute to overcrowding -- including a lack of funding for more officers and facilities, or perhaps a justice system that puts too many people in jail to begin with, according to the ACLU. The allegation that Mujahid was able to assault three different men points to a larger problem, Stenson said.
Yes this is a problem with multiple causes. It also involves the legislators who passed draconian laws to increase incarceration at the behest of private prison corporations and corrections officers unions. It also includes legislators who do not make sure there is enough money to run the prisons. The Supreme Court has ruled prisons are not at fault for violations of human rights if the legislature does not give them enough money to provide for the basic needs of the prisoners. That means states who want to minimize the cost of locking up large amounts of people just under fund the prisons and no one is held accountable. It also includes a state full of people who turn a blind eye to the truth about the conditions in the prisons and who is placed in the prisons. Then there is the Department of Law that uses truthiness and demonization to get people convicted of crimes innocent or guilty, the incompetent and under funded public defender agency who threaten clients into pleas innocent or guilty, and the incompetent, constitutionally impaired judges. An example of one of our former magistrates and judges is Joe Miller, if you could even begin to imagine the horror of being a defendant in his court room. There are a lot more just like him.
STATE: NO PROOF OF PROBLEM
The Department of Corrections' record shows that it has been successful in its mission to safely incarcerate Alaska inmates, rehabilitate them, and re-enter them into their communities, state deputy corrections commissioner Carmen Gutierrez said Tuesday.
OMG! That is just a complete lie! They release inmates onto the streets. Former inmates become refugees in their own country. In Anchorage they end up in homeless shelters or live in tents. The rehabilitation is very limited. There is very little done to facilitate re-entry into communities. Because of the ignorance, prejudice and lack of understanding about the excess of criminal charges which are at times untrue, ignorance about who inmates really are (they are demonized), and the unnecessary incarceration of so many there is a huge stigma against a large segment of society. This prevents people from being able to rent a decent place to live, excludes them from getting housing vouchers, and makes it near impossible to find a job.
When I was wrongfully incarcerated they just dumped me back into Homer from Anchorage. There was no planning, no questions about where I was going to end up or what situation I was going to. Why? They don't give a rats ass. I had done nothing wrong, in fact I was the victim. Not just the victim of the two con men, but also a victim of incompetence and corruption of multiple government agencies in Alaska, including the court system. The man who either committed the crime or fabricated the whole thing with his brother for an insurance scam (there was also retaliation involved) stole what he wanted of my property, put the rest in the rain and harmed and starved my cat. The brother filed a police report filled with obvious lies. The state troopers investigated and said there was no evidence I did it. One of the two men had a history of multiple crimes, yet he never seems to get charged with them. They were my landlords and on the Kenai Peninsula even those who have unlicensed illegal businesses are allowed to screw people over. The court issued a document that said I was not allowed on the property where I had lived. I was homeless and my cat was finally at the animal shelter starved, very ill. When I was released from the ridiculous sentence out of the Nome court they just sent me out the door. I did not know which way to even walk to town.
"There's absolutely no evidence that's been brought to the Department of Corrections' attention that understaffing or population numbers in any way contributed to these alleged sexual assaults," Gutierrez said.
This statement defies logic. Well, you could say it may have had more to do with lack of regard for the safety of inmates and poor training, Ms. Gutierrez.
Further, she said, the ACLU has "a responsibility to explain how additional staffing would have prevented these alleged incidents."
This is pretty obvious, if someone is around to see what is going on or hear someone yell for help they can stop a violent act. Everybody has so much responsibility according to the DOC, except the DOC.
Alaska's prison staffing levels are, on average, better than national averages, and without specific evidence that more officers will improve safety, spending more money on officers does not make sense, Gutierrez said.
Are you comparing the staffing levels with the private prison in Hudson County Colorado where an Alaska inmate died not too long ago? Why have we not been told the cause of his death? First the medical examiner could not determine a cause, then we were told we should wait two weeks for toxicology, then dead silence. One of your cover excuses...privacy...has been employed.
"The commissioner, being a steward of limited state resources, is going to add staff only when it is shown that the safety of the institutions are going to be enhanced," Gutierrez said.
Oh, for heaven's sake.
Commissioner Joe Schmidt was traveling Tuesday and could not be reached for comment, Gutierrez said.
UNION: FEWER OFFICERS ON SHIFT
Schmidt and his deputies will often say they've added corrections officers during their tenure, according to Alaska Corrections Officers Association business manager Brad Wilson, speaking on behalf of the union. But the administrators in fact have reduced staffing levels in Alaska prisons while increasing the number of inmates, he said.
You are surprised the DOC run by Sarah Palin's homeboy employs lies?
"The problem now is, we're seeing, and we've continued to see, is an upsurge in violence and inmate assaults," Wilson said.
While the Department of Corrections hired more officers in the last four years, it also reduced the minimum number of officers on shift at any given time, Wilson said, citing data that compare statewide staffing in December 2006 to staffing in April 2010.
Adding more officers to a growing population will not make the ratios higher. They also need supervisors who roam the prison who can suddenly appear at any time to keep the C. O.s under control and troubleshoot problems. Lots of cameras also help with security and safety issues.
"(The administrators) just want to save money on the backs of the corrections officers, and then they PR it," Wilson said. "We believe there's a correlation between the increased violence and the increase in inmates in the institutions, and we think it's obvious."
Funny how they never mention the "backs" of the inmates who are being hurt. Of course there will be more violence when people are all jammed together. Of course the corrections officers will have more work and more stress. It is obvious, but not all of the problems are due to over crowding, some are due to lack of training, policy issues and the attitude that all inmates are scum. C.O.s work in an us-against-them type of world. They think all inmates are bad people and it’s their job to punish them when some are innocent and most are incarcerated due to drugs and alcohol, they need rehab. Some inmates are mentally ill or developmentally disabled and should not be in prison to begin with. A system like this makes people more violent and mentally ill. Imagine what being locked up with a man who violently raped you over a long period of time while your complaints were ignored or laughed at would do to you. Then you get put on the street with nothing after prison. How much would you like society after that? The most important thing a corrections officer can do is be a role model. One of the traits they need to demonstrate is responsibility to take care with the lives of others.
Former union president Danny Colang had an excellent analogy for prison overcrowding, Wilson said: Colang compared it to a small family housing too many relatives for the holidays.
"No matter how much you love each other, there's going to be wear and tear and there's going to be stress," Wilson said. "Now do the same thing and do it with felons."
This is one of those demonizing statements. It demonstrates the mentality.
"You can never tell what people have inside them until you start taking it away, one hope at a time."
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
One more question; what happened to Wesley Shandy at the private prison run by buddies of some of the most corrupt politicians in Alaska, the GEO Group formerly known as Wackenhut and Cornell? They have committed many civil rights violations including allowing inmates to die by denying health care. There have been many riots and other issues at their prisons due to bad conditions as well. Geo is also one of the prison corporations that helped write the draconian immigration legislature in Arizona to help fill up private INS "detention centers".