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.
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Audit finds prison doctors paid for hours not worked

From: Las Vegas Sun
Dec 12th 2012, By Cy Ryan

CARSON CITY — Doctors hired by Nevada’s prison system may have been paid $1.9 million for hours they didn’t work, an audit found.

The audit found that full-time physicians, who are employed to work four ten-hour shifts a week, put in an average of only 5.3 hours per day. Part-time doctors work two ten-hour days.

“We estimate the annualized unsupported payments for full time doctors and part time doctors for fiscal year 2012 were approximately $1.9 million,” said the report by the Division of Internal Audits in the state Department of Administration.

The 23 physicians at the seven state prisons are paid an hourly rate ranging from $64 to $82.
An audit several years ago found that physicians hired in the state mental health system failed to put in the hours they were paid for, prompting officials to tighten controls.

The prison audit included physicians, dentists and psychiatrists.

The audit says physicians, as exempt employees, are not required to work the full ten-hour daily shift, but standard practice in Nevada is they put in “something equivalent to a 40 hour work week or more.”

Read the rest here: http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2012/dec/12/audit-finds-prison-doctors-paid-hours-not-worked/

In Loving Memory: Randal N. Wiideman

We received these sympathetic obituaries from a friend of Randal N. Wiideman, who sadly passed away on October 23rd 2011 in Ely State Prison:

Stranded on Death Row

I first and foremost open with Revolutionary Greetings, all my utmost Bigtime Bulletproof Respect in Solidarity and, A true venomously warrior salute! With all due Respect to the Row and the stretched out: keep your head held high above water and never allow anyone to robb you cut off your peace. Trapped in the shadows of the murderous, through the valley of mischievous darkness and, from my grave to yours, welcome to death row.

On October 19th, 2011, a dear friend Randal N. Wiideman exclaimed to me that he was not feeling very well. The following morning on the 20th he pleaded and requested to be seen, along with the evening pill call to no prevail. Both times the nurse told him to fill out and send in a medical request kite, of which he had already done so previously and, again at that time. A repetitious occurrence of events took place on the 21st, with the same reference to submitting a medical kite, of which by this time he had compelled 3, with no response. In the afternoon of the same day Randal pressed the alert button and asked the officer to call medical and demanded to be seen. When the officer came on the tier several hours later, he told Mr Wiideman that medical did not even respond to him. So Randal once again commenced another medical kite and again advised the nurse at pill call of his diminishing condition, who continuously only insisted on putting in a med. Kite. The following day on the 22nd, it wasn’t till a nurse came through handing out nailclippers that the same officer who called the previous day, told the nurse out of concern of Randal’s deteriorating condition. The nurse took one glance at him and 15 minutes later, they were taking him out of here in a wheelchair to the infirmary. On the 23rd during morning pill call I asked the nurse how he was doing and he said: “He’s doing real good and just resting.” At 11:00 AM count time, the officer counting stopped at my grave and said he passed away an hour ago.

If responded to accordingly, I know his inevitable “[m]urder” could have been prevented. Today is 2-9-12 and , 3-4 weeks ago another inmate passed away in the infirmary… don’t know who or how but, I’m certain we all know who’s behind it. I myself obtain serious medical deficiencies and, due to several lawsuits, I can’t get a nurse to flip me off… let alone acquire any adequate medical care, treatment or education. The list is long of all the human beings who have lost their lives in the hands of the injurious, malignant, ideological, hipocricy that we call Ely State Prison.

During, before and after the Riker case settlement, I have continuously written Amy Fettig who was the head counsel from the A.C.L.U. on that case. Though the plaintiffs received no money, Amy Fettig received a #325,000.00 check from that case. Now all the responses from the ACLU refer to the Riker case and avoid answering the letters addressing serious issues no matter how critical they are. Part of the settlement stipulation was that the appointed monitor give a 3 week notice prior to any visit… to give the NDOC 3 weeks to set the stage for that dog and pony show.
So, who’s on death row? If you are a warrior trapped in Ely State Prison and your eyes read upon these words… you better hope not to get sick on the watch of the bloody hands of E.S.P.!
How many more of us have to die? God bless the dead, as I tip the rose and close how I opened.
For any words or encouragement, support or leads to legal assistance, feel free to hit me up… and I’ll catch you on the rebound.
2-9-12

Stay Lethal!
Triple Six

Amadeo J. Sanchez, #64781
E.S.P.
P.O. Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301

———————–

Blessing in Disguise
7-9-49 – 10-23-11

Randal N. Wiideman #22306, Rest in Peace, was the Grandson of the late great Charles “Lucky” Luciano, who was inevitably taken from us on October 23, 2011.

He was, is and has been nothing but an uttermost, divinely blessing to me and, upon many others who have had the honor and opportunity to cross paths and rub shoulders with him. He had a really big heart of gold, a beautiful spirit and was very knowledgeable, with the energy and drive that would make you believe that he was truly half machine. I’ve never met or encountered anyone my whole life who was as surgical and lethal as he was with legal work. Making the impossible a handreach away, giving hope to the hopeless, the world to the havenots, while being detrimental to the N.D.O.C. and court system.

He was colorblind to race and would help anyone without judging them. Some of us “convicts” would look down on one, for some of the people he helped. He looked past the dramacydal ignorance and only saw, helping another human being in need of his help. Breaking through barriers and walls of diversity in a cumulative way as he did, is so very rare, especially in this diminishing multicultural environment where hate is harvested all year around.

I’ve seen him get a handful of life sentences reversed and thrown out, cut time off of other people’s sentences as well as commence tons of lawsuits. He loved, ate, drank and breathed law and, though many of us resist in the physical form to strive to bring change to the struggle of darkness we all endure. He was very much on the same page, except… he was doing it with a pen, a torch to bring light to our path and, with the only language this system understands. Randal: you are very much appreciated and will be missed, loved and in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. From the cradle to the grave you will never be forgotten, Rest In Peace and sleep with the Angels.

“Triple Six”
Public Enemy #1

—————————–

In Loving Memory
Of
Randal N. Wiideman
God saw you were getting tired
And a cure was not to be, he put
His arms around you and whispered
“Come with me.” With tearful eyes we
Watched you fade away,
Although we loved you dearly we could not
Make you stay. A golden heart
Stopped beating, hard working hands
At rest, God broke our hearts to
Prove to us He only takes the best.
It’s lonesome here without you
We miss you more each day, Life doesn’t seem
The same since you went away.
When days are sad and lonely and
Everything goes wrong, we seem to
Hear you whisper, “Cheer up and carry on.”
Each time we see your picture
You seem to smile and say “don’t cry
I am in God’s hands, we’ll meet
Again some day!”
Triple Six
Public Enemy #1

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

Starving prisoners at Ely State Prison

Received by mail in AZ and emailed on 21st of March 2011 to several receipients. Also received a sworn statement from author. Apologies for misreadings of the manuscript.

For the past 6 days and counting we here at ESP have been receiving only 1000-1500 calories meals each day. It angers me to even write what they´re giving us. Prisoners are starving, not only me but other prisoners are weak, light-headed, dizzy and shaking badly. I myself submitted a medical request complaining about these medical issues I´m having and medical has deliberately refused to respond to medical requests.

Numerous Correctional Officers are angry, surprisingly not toward the inmates but with Director Greg Cox, for issuing the order to shorten our meals, to punish the entire institution for his faults. Stupid muthafucka should of never issued furloughs knowing that was a retarded ass move, and he should have listened to Howard Skolnik, ex-Director of NDOC.
But no, he wants to further abuse his authority.
Director Greg Cox has personal issues with numerous prisoners and personell within the Department.

I saw on my life if inmate Chris Welsh would have killed himself blood on my shirt.
(unreadable). Well the administration has said that we will start receiving our hot breakfast again, which I don´t believe until I see it. Also a couple of inmates on 1B side have been taken out on a stretcher.

This is not a want or a need, this is a must-do. All who read this, write the Governor, the Board of Commissioners, Attorney General, everyone you can, to get Director Greg Cox out of that office, before he pulls another stunt. I´ll keep you updated on events occurring at ESP.

Signing out,
Raymond Watison #1031828
Aka “Tear Drop”
Date: March 14, 2011

Prisoner at Ely Denied Surgery – Now Barely Able to Walk

ACLU NV:

Submitted by Rahul Sharma on Thu, 03/10/2011

On March 5th, the ACLU of Nevada submitted a friend -of-the-court brief in support of John Snow, an elderly man at Ely State Prison who has been repeatedly denied hip surgery, and who, as a result, is now barely able to walk and has severely damaged kidneys.

In September of 2006, Mr. Snow saw an orthopedist retained by the Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC), who diagnosed him with severe degenerative arthritis of the hips. Four months later, at a follow-up appointment, the orthopedist wrote that Mr. Snow could “barely walk” and that “[t]here is no option here other than surgery for relief.” NDOC denied surgery at least three times, despite urgent recommendations and a finding that the medications Mr. Snow needs to manage his hip pain are toxic to his kidneys. As of this date, Mr. Snow still has not had surgery.

In January of 2008, Mr. Snow filed a lawsuit alleging, among other things, that NDOC officials had been deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. In preparations for trial, a former nurse at the prison testified that one doctor said of Mr. Snow, “This guy’s an asshole. I’m not going to treat him.” Evidence also showed that in response to one of Mr. Snow’s medical requests, a physician’s assistant wrote that he was “gonna let [Mr. Snow] suffer.” (The physician’s assistant now asserts that his response to Mr. Snow was meant to be “tongue-in-cheek.”)

The ACLU of Nevada argues in its brief that Mr. Snow’s case should be allowed to go to trial, as there is ample evidence for a jury to find that prison officials were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs.
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Unfortunately, Mr. Snow’s circumstance is only a symptom of the prison crisis recently discussed in our report, Not Fit for Human Consumption or Habitation: Nevada’s Prisons in Crisis. Medical care at Ely State Prison, the same prison in Mr. Snow’s case, was also the subject of a 2008 class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Nevada and the ACLU’s National Prison Project. The lawsuit charged that a pattern of grossly inadequate medical care at the facility created a substantial risk of serious harm for every prisoner incarcerated there.

The ACLU of Nevada hopes Mr. Snow can find redress in the courts for the inhumane treatment he has suffered. It also hopes that NDOC and the Nevada Legislature will work to keep future cases like this from happening.

Nev. Board OKs $450K Settlement in Inmate Death

Nevada board OKs $450K settlement in lawsuit over ex-Coasters manager’s death in prison

Shelved prison project irks NV lawmakers


From: Las Vegas Sun

The Associated Press
Friday, Sept. 10, 2010 | 10:27 a.m.

Nevada lawmakers are frustrated that $500,000 was been spent to design a prison project that won’t be built.

The 2009 Legislature approved $7.8 million to convert space at the High Desert State Prison in Clark County into a medical unit. It was described as a high priority by Corrections Director Howard Skolnik.

But the Las Vegas Sun reports Corrections Director Howard Skolnik told a legislative subcommittee Thursday that given the state’s budget crisis, there will be no money to staff it.

He also says the inmate population has held steady, eliminating the need for the medical unit.

The subcommittee agreed to abandon the project than spend $7 million for construction.

ACLU Agrees To Settle Lawsuit Charging Inadequate Medical Care At Ely State Prison


ACLUNV

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Nevada late yesterday filed in federal court a proposed agreement between a class of over 1,000 prisoners at Ely State Prison and top state prison and governmental officials that would settle a 2008 lawsuit charging that a pervasive pattern of grossly inadequate medical care at the prison created a substantial risk of serious medical harm for every prisoner in the facility.

The agreement, if approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, would result in an independent medical expert being appointed to monitor the prison’s health care system and submit regular reports evaluating prison officials’ compliance with specified medical requirements in the agreement. As part of the agreement, prison officials have agreed to build a better system of ensuring that necessary medications are provided to prisoners in a timely manner, develop health care treatment plans for any prisoners suffering from a chronic illness requiring ongoing medical care and provide prisoners with access to qualified medical staff seven days a week for any routine or emergency medical ailments.

“Nevada officials deserve credit for being willing to address medical care at Ely proactively,” said Amy Fettig, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project. “Rather than spend years and years in costly litigation, both parties decided to sit down to collaborate on a solution. The result is vastly improved medical conditions for the prisoners at Ely.”

Additionally, prison officials have agreed to institute daily rounds by a nurse to pick up any medical request forms – ensuring that all prisoners have a confidential means of requesting medical care – and provide access to a registered nurse or higher level practitioner within 48 hours of a prisoner requesting medical attention.
“The reforms that prison officials have agreed to will go a long way toward fixing a very broken system,” said Lee Rowland, staff attorney with the ACLU of Nevada. “We brought this lawsuit in response to widespread evidence of unconstitutional medical conditions for Ely prisoners, and we are pleased that working collaboratively with the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Corrections has led to the resolution of some of the most pressing issues at Ely.”

The lawsuit contains three named plaintiffs, including 38-year-old David Riker, who alleged at the time the lawsuit was filed that despite his rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, he had never received prescribed medications and X-rays ordered by an outside physician and was told by Ely medical staff that treating chronic pain is against the policy of the prison.

Lawyers on the case include Fettig, Rowland, Maggie McLetchie of the ACLU of Nevada and Steve Hanlon of Holland & Knight, LLC.

Information about the ACLU’s efforts to improve medical conditions at the Ely State Prison, including a copy of today’s settlement agreement, is available online at: www.aclu.org/ely


The settlement can be opened here (PDF).

LA Times: Court settlement would upgrade Nevada prison’s medical care

The ACLU negotiates a deal that includes better staffing and monitoring of treatment that one doctor called ‘shocking and callous.’

By Ashley Powers, Los Angeles Times
July 16, 2010
Reporting from Las Vegas —

A Nevada prison’s medical care — once described as displaying a “shocking and callous disregard for human life” — would be upgraded and monitored under a proposed court settlement filed Thursday.

An independent monitor would ensure that the remote maximum-security prison, which houses Nevada’s death row inmates, was dispensing medication and treatment in a timely manner, creating treatment plans for chronically ill inmates and had qualified medical staff available at all times, according to the proposal.

The monitor would inspect the 1,100-inmate Ely State Prison at least four times over two years. Should medical care fall short, the duration of his oversight could be extended, the proposal said.

The agreement, which still requires the approval of federal Judge Larry R. Hicks, was crafted by the ACLU, which represented Ely inmates, and state officials.

The ACLU cited a 2007 report by an Idaho doctor who, after reviewing the medical records of 35 inmates, said the Ely prison’s healthcare system amounted to “the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering that I have ever encountered.”

At the time, the men’s prison had no staff doctor; the previous one had been a gynecologist. A nurse was fired after complaining about shoddy treatment, which she said led to one inmate dying of gangrene.

Under the proposed agreement, cash-strapped Nevada would also pay $325,000 in attorney fees and any costs of improving the prison’s healthcare.

Lee Rowland of the ACLU said the plan resulted from “extensive cooperation” with the state. Partly based on National Commission on Correctional Health Care standards, it could help patch what she described as a “very broken system.” State officials declined to comment.

… read more:
The Los Angeles Times