America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Ely State Prison makes it to the Dishonorable Mentions (top 17)

America’s 10 Worst Prisons: Dishonorable Mentions
7 runners-up, from a “gladiator school” to America’s largest death row.

By James Ridgeway and Jean Casella
Wed May. 15, 2013, in:  Mother Jones Magazine

#1: ADX (federal supermax)
#2: Allan B. Polunsky Unit (Texas)
#3: Tent City Jail (Phoenix)
#4: Orleans Parish (Louisiana)
#5: LA County Jail (Los Angeles)
#6: Pelican Bay (California)
#7: Julia Tutwiler (Alabama)
#8: Reeves Country Detention Complex (Texas)
#9: Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility (Mississippi)
#10: Rikers Island (New York City)

Read the complete introduction to our 10 Worst Prisons project.
Last of 11 parts.

Serving time in prison is not supposed to be pleasant. Nor, however, is it supposed to include being raped by fellow prisoners or staff, beaten by guards for the slightest provocation, driven mad by long-term solitary confinement, or killed off by medical neglect. These are the fates of thousands of prisoners every year—men, women, and children housed in lockups that give Gitmo and Abu Ghraib a run for their money.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around, and while not all of the facilities described in this series have all of the problems we explore, some stand out as particularly bad actors. These dishonorable mentions make up the final installment of our 11-part series, a subjective ranking based on three years of research, correspondence with prisoners, and interviews with reform advocates concerning the penal facilities with the grimmest claims to infamy.

Attica Correctional Facility (Attica, New York): More than four decades after its famous uprising, New York’s worst state prison still lives up to its brutal history. According to the Correctional Association of New York, which has a legislative mandate to track prison conditions, Attica is plagued by staff-on-prisoner violence, intimidation, and sexual abuse.

Communications Management Units (Marion, Illinois, and Terre Haute, Indiana): These two federal prisons-within-prisons, whose populations are more than two-thirds Muslim, were opened secretly by the Bureau of Prisons during the Bush administration, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is challenging the facilities in a federal lawsuit. “The Bureau claims that CMUs are designed to hold dangerous terrorists and other high-risk inmates, requiring heightened monitoring of their external and internal communications,” notes a lawsuit fact sheet. “Many prisoners, however, are sent to these isolation units for their constitutionally protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or in retaliation for challenging poor treatment or other rights violations in the federal prison system.” (Also see: Pelican Bay.)

Ely State Prison (Ely, Nevada): A “shocking and callous disregard for human life” is how an auditor described medical care at Ely, which houses the state’s death row along with other maximum security prisoners (PDF). The audit, which found that one prisoner was allowed to rot to death from gangrene, formed the basis of a 2008 class-action lawsuit brought by the ACLU’s National Prison Project. The suit was settled in 2010, but by 2012 the prison still was not in full compliance.

Idaho Correctional Center (Kuna, Idaho): Run by Corrections Corporation of America, the world’s largest private prison company, ICC has been dubbed a “gladiator school” for its epidemic of gang violence. According to a lawsuit filed in 2010 by the ACLU of Idaho (PDF), the violence is not only condoned but actively promoted by the staff. The suit was settled, but last November, the ACLU said CCA appeared to be violating the agreement, which called for increased staffing and training, reporting of assaults to the local sheriff’s office, and disciplinary measures for staffers who didn’t take steps to stop or prevent assaults.

San Quentin State Prison (Marin County, California): This decrepit prison, which sits on a $2 billion piece of bayside real estate, is home to America’s largest death row. As of late-April, there were 711 men and 20 women condemned to die at San Quentin—you can find the latest stats here (PDF); the figure is constantly changing, despite a state moratorium on executions, because prisoners frequently die of illness or old age. Some even commit suicide rather than remain in solitary limbo.

Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola, Louisiana): At America’s largest prison, those who embrace warden Burl Cain’s pet program of “moral rehabilitation” through Christianity are afforded privileges while sinners languish in institutional hell. A former slave plantation, the prison lends its name to the so-called Angola 3, two of whom have been held in solitary for 40 years, largely for their perceived political beliefs. (In March, Louisiana’s attorney general declared, bafflingly, that the men had “never been in solitary confinement.”)

The federal pen at Lewisburg.
United States Penitentiary (Lewisburg, Pennsylvania): In this overcrowded supermax, the target of multiple lawsuits, prisoners are locked down for 23 to 24 hours a day in the company of a cellmate. One lawsuit alleges that prison officials deliberately pair people with their enemies, and that this practice has led to at least two deaths. The suit also claims that prisoners have been strapped to their bunks with four-point restraints if they resist their cell assignments.

Research for this project was supported by a grant from the Investigative Fund and The Nation Institute, as well as a Soros Justice Media Fellowship from the Open Society Foundations. Additional reporting by Beth Broyles, Valeria Monfrini, Katie Rose Quandt, and Sal Rodriguez.

Petition for Appointment of Guardian outside the Nevada Dept of Corrections: plz help Mr Tragale

From: Nevada-Cure’s blog and added the petition text:

On August 20th 2012 Nevada-Cure sent this message out via email about retaliation against a prisoner held in NNCC (Carson City, NV). It appears Prisoner TRAGALE is being retaliated against for trying to help another prisoner, who is blind, mentally ill and unable to care for himself, have a guardian appointed to the prisoner to help him with his needs. 
Philip Tragale has asked the Courts for a Guardian and/or Lawyer to protect prisoner Daniel Stenner who is blind and mentally handicapped. Mr Tragale filed the text here underneath to the District Court in Nevada on June 6th 2012.

We have another case Mr Tragale filed which contains complaints about a few employees of NDOC who are alleged to be abusive towards prisoners. We will soon post that case here too.

Please write to your Legislator and Director Cox of NDOC to ask them to have an independent commission look into these alleged abuses, and have them stopped.

NV-CURE has not conducted an independent evaluation of Mr. Tragale’s claims.  However, such an investigation must be conducted by a person that is fair and impartial.  The truth and actual events must be made public and scrutinized by the Legislature. Please e-mail / write NDOC Director COX and members of the NV Legislature with your views and opinions on this matter.
Thank you.

Filed: 6-7-12
Case no. 12GRD0003D1B
Dept. no. 1
In the First Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada
In and for Carson City
In Re: Daniel Stenner

Petition for Appointment of Guardian outside the Nevada Dept of Corrections

Comes now, Petitioner, Philip Tragale, and requests this Court to appoint a guardian for inmate Daniel Stenner, outside the NV Dept. of Corrections to protect inmate Stenner from the immoral, neglectful and abusive actions and practices of NDOC staff as will more fully appeare herein.

Petitioner, Philip Tragale, is an inmate, #62163, incarcerated at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City who has on three (3) occasions, for approx. one (1) week on each occasion witnessed the care of inmate Stenner. Petitioner now brings what he has witnessed before the Court for the Court to decide if action need be taken.

Daniel Stenner is blind and severely mentally handicapped to the point that he cannot do anything without assistance.

Petitioner believes Daniel Stenner is being abused for the following reasons:

1)      Daniel is never walked around or exercised in any way; he is removed from his cell to be fed and showered and done so in a special chair with wheels.

2)      Daniel is never taken outside for sun or fresh air.

3)      Daniel receives no therapy or rehabilitative training.

4)      Daniel is ignored, left in his cell naked and only paid attention to when he urinates (not in the toilet) or starts to scream, cry out or slap himself in the face and then he is told to lay down or he is offered food which is withheld for hours.

5)      Daniel is not given a radio or tv to keep him company or for mental stimulation nor does anyone spend time with Daniel just to try to engage him in conversation.

6)      Daniel’s meals are left to sit on the counter, in the open air, uncovered, for hours before it is fed to him cold, congealed, and dried out and only after hours of Daniel crying out and being told he’ll be fed soon over and over again.

7)      On one occasion Petitioner heard and saw Correctional Officer Cardella approach Daniel’s cell and in a low voice so no one could hear tell Daniel “You’re a F…ing” Cardella then went to the doorjam and repeated his comment. Petitioner was in the next cell and when he witnessed this he began to scream at c/o Cardella to leave Daniel alone. Petitioner reported this to all present staff.

8)      It appears to Petitioner that c/o Cardella has some weird fascination/fixation with Daniel as Petitioner has witnessed c/o Cardella become entranced, staring at Daniel with a strange look on his face many times when he thinks no one is paying attention and all other free staff are busy. [p. 3]

9)      Petitioner has heard c/o Cardella talk about “pile driving” inmates and fears that if c/o Cardella ever gets a chance he will severely injure Daniel.

10)   It appears to Petitioner that Daniel no longer even understands that he is in prison.

Petitioner submits this petition in good faith and swears to its contents under penalty of perjury. Further, Petitioner would polygraph and/or testify to these matters in any investigation or Court proceeding.

WHEREFORE, petitioner prays this Court will appoint a guardian and/or attorney to look into these allegations and continue to look out for Daniel Stenner’s safety and wellbeing.

Dated this 10th Day of May, 2012.

Respectfully Submitted,

[signed] Philip Tragale

Philip Tragale #62163
P.O. Box 7000
Carson City, NV 89702

More Brutality and Repression at E.S.P.

To be able to meet and cross paths with true comrades under these circumstances is one of the best things going for a young soldier like me. To have to live under such disturbing conditions while surrounded by so many prisoners who unfortunately obtain counter-productive mentalities is a tragedy within itself. Especially as we are all going through this same struggle together. So to be fortunate enough to come across comrades like Coyote to pass me literature and encourage me to pick up the struggle. And comrades like Brother Reggie who inspires me to be mentally and physically strong while living in the hellhole, a young soldier like me would probably still be promoting a selfish destructive lifestyle. And I wouldn’t be here today to write this article to shed light on yet another case of police brutality and abuse of power by the guards and the administration of Ely State Prison.

We’ve all heard about the incident of police brutality that took place in unit 4 on January 31st, 2010, where a guard allegedly got stabbed after beating over a dozen inmates bloody while in handcuffs, which resulted in a lieutenant and another officer getting fired, and which has provoked a series of lawsuits – on top of hundreds and hundreds of lawsuits that are already ongoing against the cold-hearted administration of E.S.P. So another report of police brutality should be no surprise.

In fact, I’m sure it was because of the lawsuits in regards to the “Bloody Sunday” incident (which is what the January 31st fracas is now being referred to as) that has caused the I.G.’s office to intervene on this latest incident of brutality that I am now about to report. Here for the very first time. Unfortunately the I.G.’s office intervention was a little too late, so hopefully this article will raise awareness and inspire people to start taking action so that we can prevent this type of retaliation from happening again, Let me explain…

I was working in the kitchen on March 7th, 2011. An inmate named Newcastle, known to us as “Chilly”, was alleged to brutally beat the Culinary Manager Steve Roundy almost to death. No one really knows if “Chilly” was the one to beat Steve over the head or not. For all we know it could’ve been a guard, cuz this incident allegedly took place after Steve threatened to write an officer up. But what we do know for sure is that Chilly is the one who was targeted by the officers after the alleged incident took place. The pigs came into the kitchen and handcuffed every prisoner and made us all lay face down on a dirty ground and then the officers proceeded to beat inmate Newcastle for about 20 to 30 minutes before they took him out of the kitchen. Chilly was in handcuffs and fully restrained. The pigs were supposed to have the video camera trained on the inmate, but they would point the camera on Steve, the Culinary Manager, while beating on Chilly. He was screaming and in obvious pain from the brutality of these vindictive, cowardly pigs. Then they took Chilly out of the kitchen into the hallway where I believe they beat him some more, which I will explain here momentarily.

Eventually Chilly was taken to the infirmary where the I.G. (Inspector General)’s offices that a camera be placed on him for 24 hours, 7 days a week to keep him protected from he violent retaliation of these cowardly officers. Why would the I.G.’s office take such drastic measures? Because they obviously know the nature and the criminal ways of these so-called E.S.P. “Correctional Officers.”

All of the other eleven prisoners, including myself, were taken to the hallway and forced to strip naked where a female nurse stood in front of me examining my body for any cuts and bruises. I felt very uncomfortable as the female nurse was staring at me laughing while the guards were standing by making sexual comments about my genitalia. and besides, there are male nurses employed here at E.S.P., so what was the purpose of having a female nurse inspect my naked body other than to humiliate and degrade me? This is all part of the psychological warfare waged on prisoners daily here at E.S.P. So needless to say, I felt violated, especially after it was already said that “The other 11 inmates did nothing wrong.” But that’s nothing compared to the violation I felt as I watched helplessly while Chilly was being beaten with a vengeance by these pigs.

After the inspection, or “degradation” I should say, we were all dressed and placed on our knees with our hands on our heads. And we were repeatedly threatened by the officer in the hallway gun tower that if we moved we will be shot down. After 30 minutes of this we were then all sent back to unit 8.

What´s even more crazy about all of this, is that when we were in the kitchen, lying on the floor in handcuffs, I was positioned in a way so that I was facing the pigs so that I could see then beat Chilly. And I could see everything that was going on, then one of the pigs tells another pig to make me turn my body the other way so I wouldn´t see what was going on. Twenty minutes after we were returned to our unit 2 pigs come to my room and told me that I needed to come with them. And I was then told that I had to speak with an Investigator from Las Vegas, and while I was in the process of being escorted to the property room, I saw some “bloody gloves” in the hallway just laying there. So it makes you wonder…

Upon entering the property room I was told I would be speaking with an Investigator and that I need to let them know everything I know and have seen. After 2 hours of sitting in the property holding cell, Lieutenant Peck comes in and gave me a pink piece of paper and read me my Miranda Rights. The paper was an Administrative Segregation Notice of Classification Hearing paper that I had to sign.

Then I was taken to the infirmary, but on the way to the Infirmary I asked the pig why I´m being treated like a suspect in the case, because to my understanding any time you are apprehended or detained by authority and read your Rights concerning a crime, you are observed as a potential suspect in the crime, and that´s clearly what´s going on here.

The pig´s response to my question was: “You shouldn´t have been facing that way, told you.” So to my understanding they know I was laying on the ground watching inmate Newcastle get beat. So then I was taken to the Infirmary and placed in holding cell #11 for 6 to 8 hours. Then Sergeant Lightsey and 2 C.E.R.T. officers came to my door and handcuffed me and when I came out the cell there was a video camera on a post facing me and the cell that I was in. I didn´t even know it was there until I came out the cell. So then I was brought to “the hole.” In unit 1A, stripped out of my clothes and given an orange jumpsuit. I asked Sgt Lightsey “Why am I being treated like a suspect?” He responded “You are a suspect.” The next day, ;March 8th, 2011, I was then taken to custody and was put in a small office where a sheriff from White Pine County and an investigator from Las Vegas asked me questions about the situation that occurred in the kitchen on March 7th, 2011. They asked me did I see the inmate Newcastle go in there, I said: “No, I was doing my job sacking up the lunches.” Then I was asked did I hear him say anything? I said: “No. I was just doing my job.” I asked them why I was being treated like a suspect. I was then told I am a possible suspect and witness, so I told them I did nothing wrong and I didn´t see anything. I was taken back to unit 1 and placed back into the cell with bloody ankles from the shackles being placed around my legs so tight I requested for medical attention, and I did not receive medical attention: my cell emergency button did not even work.

I am here on Ad. Seg. Told that I will remain under investigation for the 3-7-2011 situation. Of course, even though I´m only 22 years old, I´m still wise to their ways, I understand that all of thi sis just an intimidation tactic. To keep me from exposing how they savagely beat Chilly down while he was fully restrained like the cowards they are. It took me 3 weeks before I could get my property or even before I could take a shower. My rights to make a legal call were denied. And for a week we were being starved out with 2 cold, 300 calorie meals a day. And one hot meal at dinner. All of this to try to break my spirits. To try to make me cave in, left to set in a cell to worry and agonize over whether these cold-hearted cowards were gonna try to set me up as a retaliatory act because they know I watched them beat Newcastle.

After a week of being starved out, an anarchist comrade and an anti-authoritarian comrade on 1B kicked off a disturbance where supposedly fires were started, slots were captured and the tier was flooded out as more and more prisoners started to join in the resistance. From my wing – A-wing – we could see prisoners get carried out on stretchers and smoke everywhere. So we were quick to show our solidarity on A-wing! Supposedly Unit 1 was flooded and burnt out on the day of March 14th 2011. The next day we got fed our normal 2 hot meals a day and a cold sack lunch! So it just goes to show what a little resistance can do!

People need to know about the depravity here at ESP. They´ve already heard about the “Bloody Sunday” incident+ And the mysterious death of Timothy Redman. They ´ve heard about the way they let Cavanaugh rot and die. They´ve heard about the medical neglect, the F.B.I. investigations. And all of the lawsuits. And now they’re gonna hear about this! What else is it gonna take before we can get these callous and uncaring administrators and wardens removed from this prison, where someone capable can come in and operate this in a reasonable and humane way?

I was at one time blind and ignorant enough to work in the kitchen and help uphold the operations of this foul ass prison. I’ve seen the brutality of these pigs. And I’ve seen prisoners almost die because these incompetent nurses have given them the wrong medication.

The kitchen is the most unsanitary place in this whole prison. The pots and pans they cook food in are only half cleaned, the sheet pars they cook cakes and pies in are dirty. The floors and walls are dirty. And to top that off you have mice and rats running around the kitchen bite through food they feed us! There’s holes in the walls and the pigs even put food in the holes for the mice and rats.

This prison needs to be shut down, or else tempers are going to continue to flare and things are gonna blow up around here. The pigs are very disrespectful: they call your name and talk shit to you and they even call you names and talk shit to you and they even call Black people “monkeys”. And they know they can get away with just about anything because most of them live in the same town and are friends, they all watch each other’s back. And these so-called wardens cover up for them and back up their wrongdoing to cover their own asses.

Back here in the hole it’s bad. Psychiatric patients going crazy and terrorizing everybody. If you’re on Disciplinary Segregation you can’t even get a book sent in from your people on the outs. Left to sit in between 4 walls and lose your mind. No food off canteen, so D.S. inmates are forced to eat this unsanitary food or starve to death! It’s all bad.

I was once blind to all of this madness here at Ely State Prison. But now after being through all of this, and running across good comrades like Coyote who have taken the time to pass me literature and extend his solidarity and discuss serious matters about oppression and about how we need to elevate ourselves under these conditions, nothing can be the same for me anymore, now I’m stepping up to the plate, to be involved in the struggle and to be a part of the solution, no more can I stand idly by while we all suffer under these same atrocities. And I’m calling on others to start getting organized, start becoming active in the struggle that we are all aware of for liberation and justice. Leave the old, destructive ways alone and get involved in something that truly matters! I’m only 22 years old, I step up to the plate, so I know you can, because we all know what goes on here at Ely State Prison day in and day out. I step up because I know that “God” got my back for what ever comes my way, I’m prepared.
In for better for myself and others,

“With the heart of a young warrior”,
Comrade Vick P.!

Received by mail:
April 10th 2011
Including 5 pages of documentation.

More Abuses at Ely State Prison reported

We received this letter too:
Sent on March 16/17th 2011, received on March 22nd via an emailprogram:

“On March 16, 2011, 2 Correctional Officers hand-cuffed me and took me inside a small
medical room to review some documents. Due to me being hand-cuffed from the back, I was unable to, and the nurse who had the documents told me that I would not be able to take notes.

So it was impossible for me to view the documents with my hands tied behind my back and without any pencil and paper to oppose two Motions I have in Nevada District Court No. 2:10-cr 01340 – ILIO LRL in Vegas.

I told the nurse I will inform the courts of this. And the Nurse and Correctional Officers became angry. The Correctional Officers placed me back in my cell. As I placed my hands out the flap for them to take the cuffs off, C.O. Mr Davis called me a bitch and pulled my right arm out of the flap with the hand cuff still on it, and the other C.O. began yanking the hand-cuff pulling my skin back. C.O. Davis raised his right leg up and attempted to break my right arm and missed. The other Officer kept yanking my arm with the cuff on it.

Afterwards they made threats to kill me, and the Nurses and the CERT team were just
standing there. Officer Davis said “Fuck your legal shit”; the Nurses refused to give me medical treatment. I now sit here leaking badly from my arm and I have large marks on my arm. I need help. Now, they just denied me dinner, I will starve.

Case nr: 10-16778, U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

Raymond Watison #1031835
Ely State Prison
P.O. Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301

Not fit for human consumption or habitation

Thursday March 3rd a White Paper on prison conditions in Nevada will be organized at Boyd School of Law. It will be presented by the author, Rebecca Paddock.


When should we be concerned? After how many letters from prisoners? How many anecdotes from family members? From inmate advocates? How many news stories?

The state of Nevada’s prisons has been troubling the ACLU of Nevada for a long time. We have expressed concern over medical care, conditions of confinement, and treatment by guards at numerous facilities, and we filed a class action lawsuit about the medical care at Ely State Prison. With everything we had heard, we wanted to know how Nevada’s prisons objectively measured up.

The ACLU of Nevada and the national ACLU Human Rights Project sponsored Rebecca Paddock on a Prisoner Rights Fellowship in 2010 to examine the conditions in Nevada’s prisons through an international human rights lens. To complete her fellowship, Ms. Paddock authored a white paper “Not Fit for Human Consumption or Habitation: Nevada’s Prisons in Crisis,” which soon will be distributed to legislators, government officials, professors, and the general public.

Not Fit For Human Consumption or Habitation
Nevada’s Prisons in Crisis
  • DATE: Thursday, March 3, 2011
  • TIME: 6:30 PM. A reception will immediately follow the presentation.
  • LOCATION: Moot Courtroom/Auditorium at the Boyd School of Law
  • COST: Free and open to the public

Rebecca Paddock, author of the white paper “Not Fit for Human Consumption or Habitation: Nevada’s Prisons in Crisis” will share the findings of her report and lead a discussion with panelists:

  • Phil Kohn, Clark County Public Defender
  • Fatma Marouf, Associate Professor at the Boyd School of Law, UNLV
  • Maggie McLetchie, Legal Director, ACLU of Nevada
  • Laurie Rielly-Johnson, Inmate Advocate
This event is hosted by ACLU of Nevada, the Public Interest Law Association, and the William S. Boyd School of Law.

Retaliation against a prisoner who is vocal about prison conditions inside Nevada prisons, even though he only has 70 days left until release

James K. Wardell, NDOC #92924 has since summer 2010 voiced his concerns to Nevada Prison Watch, a community weblog, about the unhygienic sanitary conditions, the state of the food served, and inmates who were attacked by staff inside High Desert State Prison. 
The warden has tried to silence the voice of Mr Wardell by locking him up for 10 days, naked, with the lights on 24/7, in a separate part of the prison, without his glasses or anything, in the summer of 2010.
When this torture did not help in silencing Mr Wardell, the administration gave him more days until his release after nearly 30 years, pushing his release date back to later in 2011. The warden also kept Mr Wardell on administrative segregation, and did not want him “on his yard”, yet warden Baca prevented Mr Wardell from being transferred to another prison to serve the last days of his long sentence.
When he challenged this decision in court and won (January 2011), his cell was raided and legal documents were taken.
Then, around January 22nd, he was served with “charges”, apparently old, never before served charges but served late, against the rules, without stating a reason why they were served so late (contrary to the rules), and ignoring Mr Wardell´s right to remain silent and to a not guilty plea, contrary to NDOC´s rules.
Nevada Prison Watch suspects that these actions are retaliation because Mr Wardell spoke critically on this weblog about the state of the prison and its management.
Now, Mr Wardell has to fight these false charges while preparing for release, and in uncertainty of his release date. Mr Wardell should now be working on getting housing and a job, yet NDOC has done everything in its power, including illegal actions, to prevent Mr Wardell from being released, just for speaking out against dirty showers, cold food, inmates under attack and having whole units on lockdown with no programs or anything to help prisoners better themselves.
What can you do?
Please write to the new director of Nevada Department of Corrections, Mr Greg Cox, and ask him politely yet determinedly to welcome his response or intervention into correcting these outright displays of abuse and failure of the prison officials in not following their own procedures, and the harassment of this prisoner in order to chill his First Amendment Rights at H.D.S.P.
Address to write to:

Nevada Department of Corrections
Director´s Office
Mr Greg Cox
P.O. Box 7011
Carson City, Nevada  89702
Offender Management Division
Nevada Department of Corrections
P.O. Box 7011
Carson City, Nevada 89702

Also, anyone who is able to assist Mr Wardell legally with these matters can contact him at:
James Wardell #92924
P.O. Box 650,
Iindian Springs, NV 89070

Thank you so much for your help and support!
For James Wardell,
Friends of James Wardell

H.D.S.P. Update

On Wednesday 12/15/2010, officer Mingo while working Unit 3-B, got into a verbal argument with an inmate housed in 3-B-#27 named Timothy Sanders #1035382. She then went and got a spray bottle that contained bleach and sprayed this inmate in the face and eyes to try to attack him.
The inmate had to be treated by medical staff. Lt Bruce Strand had a camera brought down, and some staff were observed laughing over the incident. Several prisoners wrote Affidavits to their witnessing this assault by officer Mingo.
Inmate killed in Level 4
On 12-16-2010, the yard was closed for an Inmate to Inmate killing in the new Level 4 housing area in Unit 7.
The Hispanic prisoner killed his celly, we´re not sure why, but the prisoner who killed his celly has a history of assaults and mental issues that the prison clearly has failed to address.
How many more people have to die, or be assaulted by staff before someone in our society will take notice of the Nevada Prison System´s failure to provide a proper structure in its facilities?
The wardens who run these prisons need to be held accountable for their lack of leadership and the abuses they allow to flourish under their reign.
This was sent with authorization for reprint by
James Gator Wardell
H.D.S.P., 12/17/2010
Received by mail on Dec 28th, 2010

HDSP: Staff assault by out-of-control C.E.R.T. officer

Received by mail Dec 22nd 2010
On 12/10/2010, a female Critical Emergency Response Team (C.E.R:T.) officer by the name of Ms Mahon, slammed an inmate into the wall in the staff office in unit 3A/B, then took the inmate´s handcuffs off in order to challenge him further to a confrontation.
A back-up officer (name unknown at this time) pulled his coat off and drew back his fist in a posture to get ready to assault the un-handcuffed prisoner. Officer Mahon pushed the inmate again, yelling and cursing further trying to provoke a fight.
This is not Procedure or Protocol to deal with these types of situations. The inmate was re-cuffed and returned to cell 3-B-#28. At least 25 cells were able to view this incident and a lot of these inmates drafted Affidavits to what they saw.
On the night of 12/12/2010 at or about 9:00 PM, this same officer (C.E.R.T.) Ms Mahon, along with other regular correctional officers, dragged a beaten inmate into unit 3-B and this C.E.R.T. officer started punching and striking this inmate and yelling at him while he was in restraints. There was no camera or recording device to confirm this.
But the inmates on the bottom tier witnessed these actions that took place in cell 3-B-#11, and Affidavits were drafted over the incident.
It is clear that this officer is out of control, and the abuse of authority is clearly addictive to this person in her current placement.
These are the sort of situations we the inmate population have to deal with every time we´re confronted by, when we´re cuffed up, or forced to endure, from these likes or dislikes. We know they will just further assault us or gas us at their leisure and we don´t have much recourse.
We need to have our elected officials, congress men and women made aware, and the Governor´s office contacted over situations such as this.
Whoever will listen, there has to be news agencies out there, radio stations, someone that will voice the issues.
Thank you,
James K. Wardell
13th of December 2010 
Note by NPW: We received an affidavit from Mr Wardell about this report asking for publication.

NPW´s comments on the Vera Progress Report of September 2010

Here are NPW´s comments to some of the points made in the report of the:

VERA Institute of Justice
Action plan for the Nevada Department of Corrections
The Corrections Support and Accountability Project
September 2010

The Vera words are in italics, our comments are following each section.

Recommendation 3. Improve tracking system for inmate grievances and generate regular reports.
In Progress.

When problems were identified, such as a gap in recording some responses to grievances, staff worked to resolve the issue.

Our comments:

We wonder why there had been a gap in the first place?

Aside from this, we know of a class action lawsuit being prepared to make the courts force the NDOC to respond to grievances and to listen. So clearly not only the tracking system, but also the whole procedure should be reviewed and renewed. And not slowed down, as is now being reported by prisoners.

It is also strange that sometimes a grievance, like an Emergency grievance, is replied to by the person the grievance was written about or against. This creates partiality and the prisoner will almost certainly not be fairly treated then. (NPW)

NDOC should also create regular reports on trends in inmate grievances, both by facility and system-wide.

Our comment:

So will this help the prisoners with their complaints about needs of medical care, or violence being used on a prisoner? Who checks the trends? What action will be taken on these? (NPW)

Recommendation 4. Resolve more inmate grievances at the facility level.

In Progress.

NDOC made strides in some divisions to ensure that certain inmate grievances are resolved at the facility level. Primarily, when the Inspector General’s office receives a grievance alleging staff misconduct, they now ask facility wardens to conduct initial investigations into the claims. This process allows the facts to be verified in a timelier manner and relieves some of the backlog for investigations into these claims.

The full investigation into staff misconduct claims are ultimately handled by the Inspector General’s office, as they are serious in nature, but allowing the facility managers to take on a preliminary investigatory role will help staff resolve grievances more quickly.

Our comment:

This to us sounds like it will become EASIER to “resolve” an issue of staff misconduct by staff themselves. There are several instances in the past, where even the inspector general was sided by the warden and told what to say in his report. For instance has there ever been a formal independent investigation into the violent death of Timothy Redman (who died in November 2009, after being gassed for hours on end)?

If there ever was a proper, INDEPENDENT investigation, where is the report? Where is the press release? (NPW)

Recommendation 5. Consider creating a citizens review board for the inmate grievance process.

Under Consideration.

… Vera can also work with NDOC staff to identify those in the community that may be valuable and productive members of the citizens review board. NDOC will need to identify who in the department is most able to handle the responsibilities of overseeing the board and coordinating its efforts.

Our comment:

This sounds a bit dodgy: how will the public know if those that “represent” them are fair, and will this review board ever side with the victim or accused, how impartial are they? What is just, and how does the review board member investigate? How will the prisoners know? How much will the review board be influenced by the NDOC, the facility, the warden, etc? If NDOC chooses the citizen review board, how impartial will it be? What about human rights abuses? What about disproportionate sentences that the prisons themselves give out to a prisoner, without any outside judge involved, without any advocate/lawyer on behalf of a prisoner?

There are many rules to break in a prison, but we are most concerned by the staff misconduct and violence aimed at prisoners, the lack of medical care, the lack of healthy food, of programs, education, spiritual care. If these human rights are attacked by staff, and a prisoner is being wrongfully accused or not treated, or denied his or her rights, how will this citizen review board have any influence at all?

Incidents are documented where a prisoner was attacked by staff and hurt, and yet he was sent the bill to pay for his injuries caused by staff members. How will a citizens review board deal with these issues? (NPW)

Recommendation 7. Provide pro bono attorneys for inmates in the Inmate
Early Mediation Program.

Under Consideration.

In conversations between Vera and the magistrate judge who oversees the Inmate Early Mediation Program, it is clear that the courts believe it would be beneficial for the inmates to have legal representation at their mediations. However, NDOC administrators have some concerns about adopting this regulation. While the department is in favor of any process that enhances the likelihood of resolving complaints before they reach the courts, the department is wary of settling alleged frivolous claims and setting precedents that may expose the department to additional liability.

To assist in accomplishing this recommendation, Vera will initiate a dialogue with the courts and magistrate judge to discuss the realities of these concerns and how and whether to begin moving forward on this recommendation. NDOC will be involved with these conversations as much as possible. Vera will also work with the courts to identify opportunities to recruit additional pro bono attorneys to sustain the program.

Our comment:

This is precisely why a prisoner should need access to an attorney: the courts have often dismissed cases, because prisoners could not make their case heard without the help of an attorney who is good and capable of voicing his or her client´s need for justice done. (NPW)

Recommendation 8. Keep more investigations at the facility level.

In Progress.

As noted in Vera’s status report, NDOC has worked to move more investigations to the facility level. Specifically, NDOC revised Administrative Regulation 340 to reflect its commitment to ensuring investigations of lower-level offenses are handled at the facility level.

Our comment:

We just got note that the grievance process is slowed down for the prisoners: the time limits to respond to grievances are now 45 days in the informal level, 45 days to the first level and 60 days at the second level. What used to be done in 75 days now can take 5 months to try and resolve. Prisoners think this is set up to slow the process down so that men will not desire to push the issue, because it takes so long to be resolved or just be denied anyway. Is this fair? (NPW, we just had a response from someone in a facility down south about this)

Recommendation 10. Train select staff to run reports in NOTIS.

In Progress.

Our comment:
some records of prisoners are so old and outdated, they have not been touched in years it seems. Are these records really used by staff, to check the level of the prisoners´ custody? Because there ARE mistakes right now in this, that can have influence on the security level a prisoner is kept on. (NPW)

Recommendation 13. Clarify the role of the Board.

Under Consideration.

NDOC administrators believe the fact that the Board follows up on few, if any, issues raised by citizens at public meetings is rather clear to all attendees. However, there does seem to be some frustration among advocates with the way the Board handles their concerns.

To begin implementation of this recommendation, NDOC administrators can work with the Board members to develop language to explicitly state, prior to the public comment portion of the meeting, that it is outside the Board’s capacity to investigate or follow up on any concerns raised by the public. If other recommendations are implemented (see Recommendation 14, below) the Board can refer concerned citizens to other channels to lodge their complaints.

Our comment:
So it is official now: all our (the Public´s) comments are useless. Public has to go to other channels. Maybe to the weblog of Nevada Prison Watch? (NPW)

Recommendation 14. Develop system for following up on concerns received at public meetings.

In Progress.

At the national meeting for the Corrections Support and Accountability Project, NDOC staff met an inmate advocate who has developed a robust, collaborative relationship with the corrections director in another of Vera’s partner jurisdictions.

NDOC staff admired this relationship, and, following that meeting, Director Skolnik
reached out to particular inmate advocates in Nevada in an effort to develop a more
formal and positive relationship between NDOC and the advocate community.

The director has met with several advocates to begin discussing the possibility of formalizing their relationship and develop another channel through which the public and inmates can express their concerns to the department.

These individuals worked with the advocate from Vera’s partner jurisdiction in preparation for a meeting with NDOC. At the first formal meeting, which took place on August 31, 2010, the group identified several areas where the department can begin improvements immediately, including making some changes to the department’s website. The advocates also indicated they will be working to reestablish a CURE chapter in Nevada, hopefully by January 2011.

To complete this recommendation, NDOC should continue its efforts in establishing
relationships with the inmate advocates in Nevada. It also needs to determine the best individual to be the liaison between the department and individuals at public meetings.

Because of the developing relationship between the department and the advocate community, it may be beneficial to request one of the advocates take on this role. The department should arrange for this individual to attend all meetings where public
comment is received and make the public aware of his or her presence and purpose.

NDOC must also work to develop an internal process for handling the concerns and
complaints received by the liaison. Vera will provide assistance as necessary.

Our comment:

Although it is good to hear that NDOC wants to work with “some” inmate advocacy people, we wonder if they will actually listen?

And will Cure be our only tie, our representative to be heard by NDOC? Who else of advocates has heard about this “developing relationship between the department and the advocate community”?

There are many people outside Nevada involved with prisoners in Nevada, family members, friends, concerned people from outside. How do they contact these certain inmate advocates? How do they keep up to date with what is going on?We are free to organize our own advocacy, but will NDOC NOT listen to the others? (as far as we here at NPW know, Cure has yet to find us) (NPW)

Recommendation 15. Create an ombudsman to handle complaints by inmates, staff and the public.

Under Consideration.

The director and his staff have been receptive to creating other avenues through which the department can build bridges with inmates, staff and the public. One example of this is the current effort to develop more solid relationships with inmate advocates in the state (see above, Recommendation 15). However, at this time there are concerns about whether creating an additional state employee position is financially feasible.

If NDOC decides to pursue this recommendation, either now or in the future, the department will need to decide whether this new function should be housed internal to the department or whether it will be housed in another government agency. This may involve consulting with internal staff, external stakeholders and government officials to determine what is best, considering, for example, the degree of independence desired and how that will affect the public’s view of the office’s legitimacy.

If it should be housed externally, the department needs to identify the appropriate state agency to house the ombudsman and will need to gain support from the key staff in that agency. Another consideration for the department and stakeholders is the extent of the ombudsman’s jurisdiction and whether it will focus only on the department or will extend to other state government functions, such as parole and probation. A final issue will be identifying funding for the new ombudsman’s office. NDOC can work with Vera to identify potential grant opportunities or try to find funding from the state. NDOC may also consider the possibility of a volunteer ombudsman, but that should only be a temporary solution while the state is under such stringent budget constraints.

Our comment:

We highly recommend an Ombudsman. But we wonder: does the NDOC really want an Ombudsman, who is independent? Why does not the State of Nevada pay for this person then, instead of NDOC? If they are paid by NDOC, how independent will they be?

The fact that there is a need for this person says a lot about how the rights of prisoners have been abused and trampled under for so many years. If there are less lawsuits in court, maybe the money saved on that will pay for this much needed person. (NPW)

Recommendation 17. Develop a publicly available data dashboard.

Under Consideration.

As mentioned above, NDOC does a commendable job of posting thorough information regarding its population on its website on a consistent basis. These reports provide data on population by facility, projected populations, admissions and releases, and inmate days by facility. While this information is helpful, a great deal of the other data the department collects may be of interest to the public. As discussed in other sections of this report, NDOC is working with Syscon to gain greater control over the functioning of its data system, specifically gaining access to source codes. This will help in the development of the dashboard.

Our comment:

As far as we can see, these data are in not very accessible spreadsheets, and there are practically no data on deaths in prison. I know that one of the public has had to go through many loops to get the figures about the inmate deaths in custody. (NPW)

Recommendation 18. Create a dedicated Public Information Officer position.

Under Consideration.

NDOC administrators have identified a need for someone to handle, full time, the responsibilities of communicating with the public and media.

Our comment:

Well that would help us, the public and the people directly involved with prisoners. Right now there is a total lack of communication to the public when an inmate death or a riot or so occurs. (NPW)

Our conclusions:

It is very surprising that this whole report has had to be written. It must have been (and was, no doubt) a big mess inside NDOC, that the administration has had to be taken by the hand and shown how things have to be. Shame on the NDOC admin to keep covering things up and to keep their interests above any human rights abuses. Money and self-interest is to NDOC clearly more important than rights, than ethical reasons and to apply justice. So we hope there will come an INDEPENDENT Ombudsman.

We hope the grievance system will be much improved, but we firmly believe that grievances have to be resolved more independently and not by the staff against whom the grievance is filed.

We hope there will be no more cover ups by the NDOC, but clarity. We hope there will be no more violence by staff, and in case there is violence done by staff, that the perpetrators will be prosecuted, and the victims NOT be charged and NOT made to pay their own hospital bills.

We hope this Vera report does help, but we remain skeptical until we see positive changes for the prisoner population. (NPW)

To Society: Isolation & prison abuse go hand in hand. It comes down to you, Society, to stop this

June 2010
Dear Society,

I´m writing in regards to Isolation and possible Human Rights violation. Which brings a very strong and enduring question to my mind: Do you consider us Convicts Human? Do you care or just give us an ear – a hollow ear?

I´ve been in and out of the system over ½ my life. I´ve been in the system almost 20 of my 36 years. I was there in the mid-late 80s when child abuse was a plague, not only in Society but within the System. I was there when – as an adult – they threw you in the Den and if / when you stepped out you were the wolf and they stabbed at you with spears of Contempt, Fear, Hate and all-round Disgust that you made it out alive. My whole life I´ve been shit on by Society´s indifference towards a small boy begging your help with a fat lip & black eye and a sister that still has nightmares at the age of 38.

So it was only natural I learned from you. Society that only cares to punish me for the occasional lashing out & taking away the proverbial stick and beating you back with it. Instead of caring enough to see my problems and be civilized with a man that has learned from his isolation, his societal perceived mistakes. Did anyone ask me?

There´s that word again. Ya know even the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay had yard time, cigarettes, coffee, their religion, top notch lawyers. And Society cried out about the abuses so loud the Most Powerful Men among you shut it down. Meanwhile in Your own Country, Your own freedoms are being taken away slowly, one at a time. And still you see us in priso with a Blind Eye, a Judgemental eye that we´re all Animals. But even the Dog you kick every day learns with time. Isolated Time – Time is endless here in 23/1 lockdown. Abuse is an ever present threat. Days turn to years.

I´ve been here in Ely State Prison Nevada for 11 years (12 years soon). I´ve been in isolation 9 of those. But I´ve only had a few months on an open yard. The level system only works for Bootlickers. I´ve done my time and did as they asked and still stayed in the cage. Sure I´ve stumbled now and then. But who among you can cast that stone? I´ve grown up (literally) in the System. I know another life, but it gets further and further away. I don´t cry about it anymore. I´ve thought about my stumbles every day. I´ve seen myself bare and made myself take a look in the mirror. These are only part of how I have grown to a man who knows who he is. Isolation has helped in that. But then that was several years ago. Now I just want some yard.

Isolation detaches you. Everything but “The Man” becomes a detachment – wives – loved ones – your mind – life. This is not like other prisons “hole”. This is a place I´ve known men to come in on a dirty U/A (urine test) from camp with 4-5 points stay for 18 months. A Maximum Security Prison with killers, rapists & yeah a fella on his 3rd DUI!

Or one with Burglary who got in a fight – denied parole and stayed another 5 years, because a cop spit on him & he spit back and was charged with assault & got 3 years more. Your Tax-paying Dollars at work folks.

Isolation does these things. All you see when you look out the window are the guards – who abuse you – threaten you and sometimes whoop your ass with the proverbial stick. Isolation & prison abuse are hand in hand here in Ely. You can do good and there´s no end. There´s no incentive. There´s nothing to work towards. There are 8 units here: one is open… until last month March/April 2010. Now only ½ Unit 8 is open at all time. That´s over 1,000 with their Rights being violated every day. 23/1 lockdown. But this isn´t bad, if they obeyed their own level system and rules. But I´m getting off track.

Isolation does that. Years and years of isolation brings about the same kind of behaviour & thinking only one description can be compared/applied. PTSD. It´s said it takes a man year to year (one year in Prison, one year on the Streets) to readjust to Society when released. For prisoners with 5 or more years of lockdown? Is there even a stat for that? Has anyone ever cared to check? How can I have a job interview when I haven´t had no conversation in 10 years? How am I suppose to react to other convicts (if I am ever on an open yard again), if I´m filled with so much anger from being locked down for so long?

Some of us lose our communication skills, our ability to engage in Human contact. Some have broken minds & spirits. The reward for telling on people is to go to an open yard – what kind of program is that? When a person not telling starts doing good. They come by with that stick – poke – poke – poke. “That´s another 2 years in the Hole for STG – Safety & Security – Pending Investigation.”

All it takes is one of us to mellow out & try to get out of this Prison. But for most like myself with Life… If I tell on people – hurt them – ruin their time – I can go to an open Yard. If not – the warden says I can get a chance when he dies, I die or he retires. I have not had a violent episode in 5 years. A cell extraction because a Rookie tried to yank my arms through the food slot and wrench them up in the air. That´s one of those times I took that stick and poked back.

The wardens say we can get change when we take them to court.

I point out a lot of these side issues because Mental Abuse is more present than any other. I do bad: I get my ass kicked. I do good: I get mind-fucked until I do bad. This is Ely State Prison. A tiny prison built in a valley 5 to 10 miles out of a tiny little town. And every officer that comes through that door is a part of these abuses and this continued Isolation. Because they either participate or look the other way. The ones that take part are encouraged by admin. to make certain inmates’ lives miserable.

One inmate was not fed for 3 days.

One inmate was pissed & spat on, kicked until his balls swelled to twice normal. Broken arm from being wrenched behind with handcuffs on. And left there, in cuffs for two days.

They (the cops) play games like opening the door a crack and letting it slam shut at intervals throughout the night.

Turning on the speaker and tapping or yelling into it all day.

Keeping you in the shower for several hours. They use yard and showers as excuses to threaten retaliation – shakedowns – no water out on Rec. yard (where they leave you for 3-4 hours), clamp down on shackles so you can barely walk. Sharpen the shackles so they cut into the ankle.

They regularly keep mail or give it to known sex offenders.

The nursing staff must know. How can a person plea for medical treatment and be ignored for days or “forever.” I was shot several years ago and had 86 pellet holes. No Aspirin, no Ibuprofen. I still have 22 pellets in me, 18 in my left arm alone.

It comes down to Human Dignity. It comes down to you… Society! I am not an Animal. But if you treat me like one long enough, don’t be surprised when I bite. Isolation for long periods stops being a tool & becomes a weapon. Isn’t my use of weapons what got me here? Yes. Then why is it okay for you to do it? What more do you want from me – you’ve already taken my life of liberty. But never my freedom. Never my self/worth. That you can not have. For if that day comes, Society, then you have truly broke me.

Pig Pin

Sent in to us in June of 2010. If you want to do something to make programs, rehabilitation and healing possible, let us know.