April 27, 2017
"...by the workings of the prison system society commits every crime against the criminal that the criminal is charged with committing against society." -Kate Richards O'Hare, political prisoner, reformer, and eventual California prison administrator 1932
To whom this may concern:
In May 2001 I suffered a nervous breakdown during which I tried to kidnap my downstairs neighbor.
Despite my having a poor mental health history since the age of six, multiple hospitalizations and two doctors who testified that I was insane at the time of the crime, I was convicted and sentenced to 40 years.
It took almost three and a half years to get to trial, but during that time solitary confinement and prison played key roles in breaking me down both mentally and physically.
About a year and a half after my arrest I refused to live with cell partners. In retaliation, the prisons placed me in solitary where I stayed for over a year (before trial). The prisons got progressively worse until I was placed in supermaximum Northern: the worst of the worst, in Connecticut.
Throughout much of my time in solitary, the guards would tamper with my meals, so I stopped eating non-prepackaged food. Instead, I would consume the two milks a day and the occasional package of cereal, chips or fruit. I had begun solitary at 6'2" 216 lbs and had dropped to an astonishing 125 lbs in a year.
In Northern I pleaded for months with the authorities to allow me to randomly choose from the trays being served, but they would not listen -- giving me the tray they wanted me to have. Sometimes I would be so hungry, I would eat the tray anyway, even though I knew they had violated it. One time, in that supermax, two guards stood outside my door looking in, watching me hungrily consume a meal. "Ahh look, he's eating it. He's actually eating it. That's fucking sick." I felt like an animal, like a headless pig with its snout in a trough. Still I ate. I was so hungry I couldn't stop, no matter what they did with it.
To this day I -- at times -- have difficulty accepting trays with markings on them.
I know what it's like to be hungry all the time... to be constantly thinking of food in a stripped down cell with nothing to do but think.
In Hartford County I received no recreation time in solitary. In Walker, the next step (before Northern), I continued to refuse cell partners and was sent to segregation. There I also received no rec.
I spent nine months in Northern. For maybe half that time 'recreation' consisted of an host 'outside' in a kennel (an approximate 9x16' cage in a concrete and steel enclosed courtyard). I believe they kept my feet chained, but I used the time to talk to other inmates. There was not enough room to run around, anyway.
In order to further punish me for my still refusing to live with a cellie, they threw away all my property and chained me up -- hand-and-foot -- for three days on two different occasions (totaling six days). When I continued to not comply with their warehousing protocol, Northern transferred me to a block without kennel cages. Instead, for recreation, this block had a small concrete courtyard with a basketball hoop. Without giving me a ball, they uncuffed my hands but did not take off my leg irons. I know this because I remember the bloody furrows the steel manacles would leave on my ankles as I walked in circles alone for an hour. I wore those ankle cuffs everywhere except my cell. I was forced to wear them even in the shower where the hot water would soften my skin and the filthy steel would bite into my ankles.
In 15 years I was put in 'in cell restraints' at least seven (7) times (a total of more than 18 days in chains) and stationary-four-pointed at least three times. 'In cell restraints' and four points are used exclusively in solitary confinement. 'In cell restraints' have changed throughout the years but the law remains the same. The law states that prison officials cannot keep an inmate restrained in chains for more than 3 days. I think that if the restrains time exceeds three days, the commissioner has to be notified, and approve the continued restraint. The three days restrains time, however, is much abused. Usually, when people are put in the cell restraint chains, they are kept in them for three full days-- no matter how quiet or calm the fettered inmate becomes.
Throughout the three days, going to the toilet is a picture of utter humiliation, since one is unable to wipe his rear because of his cuffed hands attached to a 'hog tail' which is in turn attached to the hobble chains between the anklecuffs. A prison being subjected to this form of torment is handcuffed in the front. A padlocked chain called the 'hog tail' leads from the wrists to the hobblechain between one's ankles. This is to prevent the inmate from raising his hands above his waist. (When I was first 'in celled' no hog tail was used. My wrists were padlocked directly to on o ring in the center of leg iron chains. The play of hog tail length has slowly increased throughout the years.) In Garner a thick plastic 'black box' (designed for only temporary use during transport) is applied to the handcuffs, preventing any movement of the wrists. Indeed even the narrow steel handcuffs and leg irons were designed for temporary use during transport but they are regularly used to keep people chained for days. On one occasion the rusty cuffs closed on my swollen wrists and sawed into them, cutting off circulation. Instead of taking me out of them, the lieutenant had the bloody cuffs torn off my wrists (The blood had dried, adhering the cuffs to the abraded flesh.) and a fresh pair of handcuffs were applied, so I could continue the remainder of the three-day restraint.
I was recently told that is is illegal to keep a mental health inmate chained in the above-described manner.
In the early 2000's an inmate being restrained in this manner could wear a jumpsuit but later on in the decade (in Garner at least) the victim is stripped naked and given a velcro safety vest that he is unable to put on (because he is restrained). Even if the vest were to be put in the inmate by staff, it would simply fall off due to the loose and unreliable connection of the velcro. Even someone who is not restrained has difficult time keeping on one of those vests in a cold cell.
Legally the prison cannot restrain anyone as a punishment for revenge/retaliation, but it is done all the time for those very same reasons. I was 'in celled' at least twice for making too much noise and once for yelling at an officer. (On the latter occasion, after I yelled at him, I was thrown to the ground. When I curled up in a naked fetal possition with my hands cuffed behind my back, the lieutenant knelt down, carefully aimed the capstun canister to my eyes and discharged it at pointblank range. I was then marched, without clothes or covering, in front of the whole seg block over 40 yards to the showers to be 'decontaminated'. Next, I was walked downstairs to an incell restraint ream and chained up for three days. Before they left, however, they pressed me to the bed's mattress with a riot shield while I writhed and begged them to let me wash my genitals off [because the pepper spray from the shower 'decontamination' had washed down to that area]. After holding me down for five to ten minutes they left the room, allowing me to stumbling to the sink and splash water onto myself while at least one guard watched the entertainment from a window.)
The following examples were not the only times but I was fourpointed once for refusing to go to court and at least once 12 years later for refusing to take antipsychotic medication.
In 2002 when I refused to go to court from solitary confinement, I was strapped naked to a 'restraint chair' and systematically tortured with pepper spray. When I squeezed my burning eyes shut, at least one of the guards forced them open with his fingers so he could spray a fresh stream of chemical agent onto them. Other tortures included their twisting my fingers and stimulating pressure points under my ears. When they realized I would not go to court that day, my fourpoint restraint to a bed was a merciful relief.
In Garner, when a man first comes to solitary confinement, he is subjected to a 'controlled strip-search'. I call it 'simulated rape.' When the inmate -- hands cuffed behind his back -- is brought to his segregation cell, he is taken to bed and forced to his knees. His chest and face are pressed against the dirty mattress and -- while surrounded by at least three guards-- is forcible disrobed. Next, he is hauled to his feet, made to stand at the wall at the back of his cell, and forced to perform a ritual that's seemingly meant to prolong his humiliation. Even though he had just been on his knees, he is told to squat down and cough. Even though when he was on his knees, to bottoms of his bare feet were visible, he is told to show the bottom of each foot. Sometimes he is told to wiggle his toes. Lastly his mouth and genitals are checked. Any deviations from their prescribed course of action could result in violence from them. "Any sudden movement" from the restrained inmate is "interpreted as a threat" to the room full of fully-clothed guards. Pepper spray is readily used on restrained inmates whom do not cooperate.
They perform this simulated rape when the cell door is wide open and other inmates from their cells can see inside.
In over fifteen years, I have spent over two years in segregation. Though I have never been in a fight, I have been sent to seg for everything from not eating or showering fast enough to making a smart comment or refusing a cell partner. People can also be sent to solitary over 'investigation' (that can drag on for weeks) or raising ones voice.
Solitary is a sure route to madness. It was from there that I made critically unreasonable decisions in the pretrial of my cases. Instead of plea bargaining for the offered 8 years, I fought and lose both trials to receive a total of 55 years. (One of the trials was from when I blacked out and am said to have assaulted a court officer, scratching his legs. The judge gave me the maximum of 15 years.) It was from segregation/solitary that I believed the TV transmitted subliminal messages, that I was trapped in a mirror world, was a traveller of parallel realities, was the subject of alien experimentation, and other ideas. It was also where I came upon the idea to cut off the circulation to my hands and feet so they would be amputated and I could request a sentence modification. Only then -- softly after trial-- did the psychiatrists within the prison who work for UConn decide I was so sick I needed to be force medicated.
"An order to be involuntarily medicated" means that if I were to ever challenge -- before a judge-- the prison's right to medicate me, the same office that argued at trial that I didn't have a mental illness (the state attorney's office) would be appointed to claim that I should be force-medicated as recommended by prison doctors. If that isn't the height of irony and injustice, I don't know what is.
I am doing better now with more recreation, calls to my family, TV that I can clearly hear, and the occasional visit, but I am still locked down for over 20 hours a day (which is considered segregation by many). Even though the prison does not call this 'segregation' and I have not received a disciplinary ticket in over three years, I never get to touch grass or see trees when I stand in the courtyard outside (the only 'outside' I get from b-block) because I am labeled a 'mental health inmate' in a 'low-functioning' block here in Garner. It has been this way for years. (Window glaze has also been inexplicably smeared over the outside of my cell's narrow window, so I can not even clearly see outside.)
I encourage your continuing to bring light to the practice of solitary confinement within this very opaque institution.
Thank you so much.
May peace abide with you.
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