Authorities investigate inmate death at Ely prison

From: SF Chronicle: Aug 17th 2012
ELY, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada inmate is dead following an undisclosed incident at Ely State Prison.
The Department of Corrections has identified the inmate as 49-year-old Clayton Wrencher. The incident happened early Friday.
Wrencher was convicted in 2010 of murder in Clark County and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Officials say the death is being investigated by the White Pine County sheriff’s office and the state Inspector General‘s Office.
Department of Corrections spokesman Brian Connett says further details are being withheld pending the outcome of the investigations.



Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Authorities-investigate-inmate-death-at-Ely-prison-3796508.php#ixzz24C1uY0bi

From Nevada-Cure: Informational Bulletin nr 1

Received from Nevada-Cure, it is on the website here. Please print and distribute widely to those you know in Nevada prisons!

Here you find a copy of the NV-CURE Informational Bulletin (IB) Newsletter – No. 1 – that will be sent to prisoners on our mailing list this month.
You may want to print copies to send to prisoners that may not be on our mailing list and you may want to e-mail to any persons that may have an interest in the NV prison system.
We need to bring the problems with the NV prison and parole systems to as many people as possible. 
Good people should not tolerate the things that are going on behind barbed wire fenses in Nevada.
NV-CURE
(Citizens United for the Rehabilitation of Errants)
540 E. St. Louis Ave.
Las Vegas, NV 89104

702.347.1731

nevadacure@gmail.com
nevadacure.org

Informational Bulletin Newsletter (1) June 2012

NV-CURE is a non-profit corporation.  Our mission is to educate people on the issues and problems associated with the prison and parole systems through factual information to provoke intelligent and reasonable debate and discussion of those issues and problems.  Our goal is to find intelligent solutions to issues and problems and cause constructive change to the prison and parole systems.  We want humane and rehabilitative treatment for all prisoners and we want justice and fairness for all people regardless of their race, national origin, religious preferences, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or the nature of previous criminal conduct. 

We need your help, and the help of your family, friends and associates, to accomplish our mission and achieve our goal. Join us in the struggle to bring justice and fairness to all in the criminal justice system.

We hold meetings on the last Wednesday of every month at 6:30 PM in our Las Vegas Office.  All people are welcome to attend in person or through our telephonic conference line. (Call for Details).

NV-CURE Membership

NV-CURE Membership for prisoners ($2.00), basic ($10.00), family ($20.00) and sustaining ($50.00) is ANNUAL. Each person needs to keep track of their membership date and make a renewal membership donation yearly. This will save us having to write you to remind your yearly membership is due. 

NV-CURE Lifetime Membership is $100.00 and only needs to be paid once.

NV-CURE Members may assist the organization by contributing money and/or volunteering to perform tasks to assist NV-CURE in achieving its mission and goal.  All NV-CURE Members are expected to assist other NV-CURE Members in resolving issues and problems confronting them, to recruit more members to our cause and to assist others in furtherance of our mission and goals. NV-CURE Members are expected to actively participate in the struggle for justice and fairness for all. Struggle in Solidarity.

NV-CURE Mail

NV-CURE has a mailing address listed above.  All mail to NV-CURE, or any NV-CURE Directors or Officers, should be sent to the address listed above.  All mail to NV-CURE is scanned into our files and disseminated for response.  Responses will be provided within 30 days or as soon as possible.

NV-CURE Telephone Calls
NV-CURE has a telephone number listed above.  All calls to NV-CURE must be prepaid.  We do not have the funds necessary for us to accept collect calls.  Please do not make collect calls to us.  Thank you.

NV-CURE Prisoner Members

NV-CURE Prisoner Members are encouraged to help accomplish our mission.  Work together, help each other, help other prisoners and encourage other prisoners, and their family and friends, to join us in the struggle to make constructive changes to the prison and parole systems.  We need your help in building solidarity among all prisoners to make constructive changes and to bring justice and fairness to all.  We will accomplish more working together than struggling individually.

NV-CURE Prisoner Members need to organize as many prisoners as possible at each institution into a cohesive and united front to effectuate constructive change.  DO NOT VIOLATE ANY PRISON RULES.  Gather information regarding staff abuse, conditions of confinement, staff misconduct and other problems that need to be addressed.  Provide that information  – IN AFFIDAVIT FORMAT – to NV-CURE for our use in any manner deemed appropriate.  NV-CURE will compile that information, organize it into an articulate format and provide that information to persons responsible for investigating the problems addressed and to persons responsible for the adopting of laws, policies and procedures governing and controlling those matters and for correcting those problems.  We all need to work together to make NV-CURE a viable vehicle through which all our voices and complaints heard in an intelligent and reasonable changes made to the criminal just-us system.

NV-CURE Prisoner Members at each institution may elect a member at each institution to lead the struggle for change.  Each elected leader should be in weekly telephone communication through pre-paid calls to designated NV-CURE Community Representative. Only through coordinated and organized joint action may we effectuate the changes required for humane conditions of confinement and justice and fairness for all.

Legal Assistance

NV-CURE is NOT a legal assistance organization.  We are not lawyers and we do not provide legal advice.  We have lawyers and paralegals as members involved with us in the struggle and on our Board of Directors.  Those persons are acting as individuals in our struggle and pursue their professions separately from NV-CURE activities.  Please do not contact them for legal assistance or advice unless you have the money to pay for their services up front, or you have survived summary judgment in a civil action.  As much as they would like to help, they require financial resources for their survival in the community.  Please do not write them personally for help unless you are able to pay for their services.  Thank you.

Staff Abuse of Prisoners

As many of you are aware, for the past nine (9) months NV-CURE has been gathering information regarding staff abuse of prisoners.  We have received a great deal of information on the subject. (as well as on other problems) and we have reported those matters to NDOC Director COX and various other non-profit legal assistance organizations, legislators, NV Advisory Committee on the Administration of Justice (ACAJ) and the media.  
Director COX has assured us that each matter we reported to him as been referred to the Inspector General’s Office for investigation. (NDOC staff investigating claims against NDOC staff). We have received reports from our Prisoner Members that staff abuse of prisoners has diminished during the past five (5) months.  We hope that we have helped to reduce this problem.

If you have information regarding continued staff abuse of prisoners, in any form, please report that abuse to us in affidavit format.  We will continue to gather and correlate information on that subject.  We want all staff abuse of prisoners to STOP and we need your help to do that.

Documents

Please do not send us documents you want returned or copied.  Only send us copies of documents we may retain in our files.  We have attempted to copy and return documents, but the task was overwhelming and the costs overburdening.  We will no longer return or copy documents.  Send us only copies of documents we may retain.  Thank you.

Retaliation

NDOC Director COX has assured NV-CURE that there will be no retaliatory action taken against prisoners that report staff abuse or misconduct.  We have taken him at his word.  Unfortunately, we have received reports that prisoners who have reported staff abuse and misconduct have been retaliated against.  We want information on each instance of staff retaliation against prisoners for exercising their 1st Amendment right to expose staff abuse and misconduct.  We suggest reading the 9th Circuit decision in Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559 (9th Cir. 2005), to insure your retaliation complaints meet the five (5) point requirement for stating a retaliation claim.  We will report retaliation claims to Director COX and other appropriate officials  and attempt to make NDOC staff aware of the fact that reporting staff misconduct, filing grievances and filing lawsuits are authorized, encouraged, legitimate and reasonable forms of 1st amendment activities and are the intelligent and reasonable alternative to violent protest. If staff want to avoid being reported, staff should not engage in abusive or retaliatory misconduct. It is in all of our best interests to resolve complaints through appropriate channels.

Report each instance of staff retaliatory action to NV-CURE and pursue your claim through the grievance and, if necessary, the judicial process.

Please be aware that NDOC staff have been known to engage in devious and underhanded retaliatory misconduct.  NDOC staff have labeled prisoners as “informant”, “child molester” and other “undesirable” persons, regardless of the truth of the matter, to retaliate against prisoners that have reported them, or their fellow employees’ misconduct with the intent of causing those prisoner harm from other prisoners. Do not fall into their retaliatory games of deception.  NDOC staff are not your friends and reporting their misconduct does not make you a “snitch”.  Report staff misconduct and make NDOC staff follow the law and the policies and procedures governing their conduct.

Please provide NV-CURE with information regarding each and every instance of NDOC staff misconduct and we will report the misconduct to appropriate authorities.

False and Inaccurate Information in NDOC Files and Records

NV-CURE has received credible information indicating that in 2007 the NDOC had a computer “glitch” problem that result in various false and inaccurate information regarding past criminal history, good time and custody status being inserted into various prisoner files. It appears in some instances the NDOC removes the false information only to have it re-appear at a later date. An audit has been requested by the ACAJ and will be presented in the 2013 Legislative session.

NV-CURE has a Community Member interested in gathering information on this subject.  Should any prisoner have a problem with false and/or inaccurate information being contained in their NDOC file, appropriate action should be taken to correct the problem.  Document the false or inaccurate information (request a screen printout from your caseworker), request the information be removed and/or corrected, pursue a grievance if necessary and report each incident in affidavit format, with supporting documentation, to NV-CURE. Our Community Member will use information in attempt to resolve problems existing in NDOC files.

Hep C and HIV Issues

We have received information indicating that prisoners are being denied testing and treatment for Hep C and adequate HIV medications. Please provide any information in affidavit form regarding denial of treatment for HEP C and HIV to NV-CURE. The news media may be interested in this situation.

Medical and Mental Health Issues

NV-CURE is aware that, in spite of the settlement reached in Riker v. Gibbons (ACLU litigation against Ely State Prison for denial of medical care), medical care at ESP and several other NDOC facilities is far below a constitutional level of care. We have received letters complaining of prisoners being denied medical care for broken bones, hepatitis c, cancer, diabetes and other issues. Please provide information in affidavit form to NV-CURE, and file grievances. While it is difficult for prisoners to prevail in a medical case against the state, it has been done. Recently, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in favor of prisoner John Snow in a medical case and remanded his case back to district court for further proceedings.  It would be informative to read the Snow v. McDaniel, 681 F.3d 978 (9th Cir. 2012), decision to understand deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, which is the standard necessary to prevail in litigation against the state on this issue.

NV-CURE is in contact with the ACLU National Prison Project attorney that has an interest in the medical care and treatment being provided to Nevada prisoners.

Additionally, it has come to the attention of NV-CURE that mentally ill prisoners are being harassed and abused by NDOC staff. This is unacceptable. Please report any incidences of this type to NV-CURE in affidavit format. Our respect and thanks to those already speaking up in defense of the mentally ill in Nevada’s prisons!

Please provide information regarding medical and mental health issues in affidavit form to NV-CURE.

Clothing, Food, Personal Hygiene and Water Issues

Please provide information in affidavit form to NV-CURE regarding inadequate clothing, food, water and personal hygiene items issues within the NDOC.  We have received information that there are problems in these areas that need to be addressed.  One of our Prisoner Members is handling issues relating to inadequate food and we will channel the information on that subject to him.  In the event any other Prisoner Member is interested in handling the information provided concerning the other issues, please make that fact known to us.  We need your help to make changes to each of these problems.

NV-CURE Informational Bulletin Newsletters

A new NV-CURE member in the community has an interest in preparing NV-CURE Informational Bulletin Newsletters.  We welcome him to the struggle for change.  We intend to begin publishing this newsletter on a quarterly basis and provide you with news and information beneficial for use in the struggle for change.  Any suggestions for matters to be included in this newsletter would be appreciated.

National CURE Board of Directors Meeting

National CURE Board of Directors is meeting in Washington, D.C., in the end of August and early September of 2012.  Our President, who is on the National CURE Board of Directors, will be attending that meeting and representing the interests of NV prisoners.  In our next newsletter, we will report of his activities. Please provide any suggestions for topics of discussion for International and National CURE. 

Thank you for being a member of NV-CURE and for joining NV-CURE in the struggle for justice and fairness for all.

Financial Resources – Donations

NV-CURE requires financial resources to accomplish our mission and goals.  We currently have extremely limited financial resources.  We need your help, and the help of your family and friends.  Please contribute to our cause and induce other to contribute.  Donations may be sent to the NV-CURE office and made through paypal on our website. The more financial resources we have available, the more we can do.  Without financial resources, we cannot accomplish our mission or goals.  Help.  Thank you.

Affidavit Format for Providing Information

The following is the format that should be followed in providing information regarding the above referenced matters to NV-CURE.  Please use it.

AFFIDAVIT OF (NAME OF AFFIANT)

(Nature of Complaint, i.e., Medical treatment, Use of excessive Force, etc)

State of Nevada                  )

                                           : §

County of (Name of County)

            I, (Name of Affiant), hereby declare and state as follows:

            1.  I am a prisoner confined at (name of institution) and I am making this Affidavit for the use of NV-CURE in any manner NV-CURE deems appropriate.

            2.  I am above 18 years of age, I am competent to testify regarding the matters set forth herein and the matters set forth herein are stated based on my own personal knowledge and observations.

            3.  (Use as many numbered paragraphs as necessary to described the events you witnessed.  Be sure to include names, dates, times, places of the events and all relevant facts.

            4. Further, Affiant sayeth naught.

            Pursuant to the provisions of 28 USC §1746, I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statements are true and correct.  Executed on this ____ day of _(Month)_, 2012, in the County of (Name of County) in the State of Nevada.

                                                                       _____________________________

                                                                       (Name and Address)

NV-CURE Meetings With NDOC Director COX

NV-CURE is scheduled to meet with NDOC Director COX quarterly on issues of concern related to the prison system. We are also in communication with other organizations, legislators and media regarding those issues.  We are advocates of your concerns and will do our best to address your issues in the community.

Nevada State Bar Notice

Please note that Veronica Melton is no longer answering prisoner mail for the State Bar Association and is no longer able to send the Jailhouse Lawyers Handbook to prisoners.  Sorry. A new person has been assigned to answer prisoner mail. Contact the Center for Constitutional Rights,  Attn: Jailhouse Lawyers handbook, 666 Broadway, 7th Fl., N.Y., N.Y. 10012, for a copy.

Problems Obtaining Identification Documents

Anyone having problems obtaining identification (Birth Certificate, Social Security Card, etc.) necessary for use when released to the community should provide an Affidavit on that subject.

STRUGGLE IN SOLIDARITY

The cruelest tyranny is practiced
Behind the shield of law and order

Nevada houses 10 times more people with mental illness in jails than in psychiatric facilities

New Report: Jail More Likely Than Treatment For Americans With Psychiatric Disorders

From: Disability Scoop
By Michelle Diament
May 13, 2010

Americans with severe mental illness are three times more likely to go to prison than to a psychiatric hospital, new research indicates.

While the likelihood varies by state, there is no state where individuals experiencing diagnoses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to be in a psychiatric hospital than a jail, the findings from a new report conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association indicate.

The best case scenario appears to be in North Dakota where the odds are one to one that a person with mental illness will be in prison or a psychiatric hospital. In contrast, Arizona and Nevada each host 10 times more people with mental illness in their jails than in psychiatric facilities.

Read more here

Report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (PDF).

Nevada houses 10 times more people with mental illness in jails than in psychiatric facilities

New Report: Jail More Likely Than Treatment For Americans With Psychiatric Disorders

From: Disability Scoop
By Michelle Diament
May 13, 2010

Americans with severe mental illness are three times more likely to go to prison than to a psychiatric hospital, new research indicates.

While the likelihood varies by state, there is no state where individuals experiencing diagnoses like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder are more likely to be in a psychiatric hospital than a jail, the findings from a new report conducted by the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association indicate.

The best case scenario appears to be in North Dakota where the odds are one to one that a person with mental illness will be in prison or a psychiatric hospital. In contrast, Arizona and Nevada each host 10 times more people with mental illness in their jails than in psychiatric facilities.

Read more here

Report by the Treatment Advocacy Center (PDF).

Director of Nevada prison system under investigation

Las Vegas, NV– The director of the Nevada prison system is under investigation by Metro.

An employee at High Desert State Prison filed a report at the end of February, claiming Howard Skolnik got angry during a meeting with about 30 medical staffers and threatened to shoot them with a shotgun and sniper rifle.

A prison spokeswoman tell us Skolnik doesn’t own either type of weapon.

She also says he can’t comment because of the investigation, but adds he’s not concerned about the outcome.

No charges have been filed in the case.

From the Bowels of Nevada – Til Now

Article submitted by John Neff, Ely State Prison



In a place once considered rehabilitative and efficient in recognizing that the most humane way is usually the hands-off approach where the adage, “Don’t fix what is not broken” can be said, a lot has changed and corroded over the years. There was a time when this place was a relatively quiet little known crease in the system with only the mundane murmurs of prison life. Nothing really unusual; just the atmosphere of incarceration. It was a state of business that ran itself where society knew nothing and prisoners didn’t have to seek redress outside the walls. When prisoners could settle grievances, they did not have to lean on a crooked, over-taxed system. Discipline then was more fair and with better justification. A case built on resistance rarely had a reason to be born and once quelled, the discontent would fade with a resolution. There was a place for everyone once and a balance in the harsh realities of what incarceration achieved.


Hope had been a companion when society’s worst always had an opportunity to live peacefully and even when life was bad, it was at least manageable. Tomorrow brought a new day with short memories from the nightmare of yesterday. Survival was easy or as hard as one wished to make it. It roamed at an acceptable pace catering to both captors and captives as their roles dictated. The lines were clean and rarely blurred. And yet, an unprecedented storm moved steadily and quickly from the horizon to reward the times even though human rights were still supposed to be a stout army. It wasn’t and so was summarily trampled without remorse as the new breed of prison “ideas” with its pioneers of punishment cast their webs to “crack down”. That is what happened and torturous, malicious shadows darkened what prison is…To appease a world that does not understand.


Slowly, men were broken as prison collapsed on them completely to suffocate them under the weight of authority and the light that often provided a glimpse of opportunity was doused with oppression. The cycle continues now to sop the will to be rehabilitated or to change “patterns” long learned.



Prisoners are trapped in their mistakes where “no tolerance” means lockdown all the time without a system to reward good behavior or provide any incentive to try. Nevada has made people want to fight them however they can but there are no resolutions anymore.



No one cares as the system doles out more punishment or cuts more from the budget to bury prisoners in infamy. In the end, no one has learned any lessons or saved a dime and the anger festers into hatred that often can only be given relief through violence.



It is a shame what men are forced to become because of their environment; what they must do to survive the multitude of situations in a place that is always out to get them.



Prisoners are trained to be animals with all the gimmicks of their confinement and often treated with the cruelty of being rabid instead of with a bit of civility so it cannot be a surprise to find that a lot of prisoners embrace the savage sides of their nature to become animals when humanity has abandoned them. It is not fair that a system now breeds hatred instead of a positive existence. It forces men to become disgusted or fed-up with enduring everything when the ugliest realities keep getting shoved down their throats.



The thought of making people better or giving them a reason to smile is beyond this new warehouse of horrors.



The times of preparing or learning to be a part of society and being a good person outside of prison are gone. It has reneged on its promise of justice. It’s all about money now and prison has thrown away the tools to rehabilitation and replaced them with thoughts of retribution and anger without an outlet.



Everything has been ripped away so prisoners are left with themselves to make do; it is mostly bad then because even complacency can’t solve the problems or extinguish the seeds of hatred left to mature. It becomes a life-long grudge against all authority and fellow man.



It is a sad life now that society has allowed the system to subject human beings to.


Eyes should focus on Ely, Nevada where the endless desert swallows the souls of men every day and the system shrouds its prison from the minds of society. Here is a hell there to be seen, though. It is a miserable, desolate place, devoid of any compassion with only thoughts of punishment through any forum – food, personal, safety, comforts, human rights, lockdown, sanity and any other way it can think of to make imprisonment harder than it needs to be.



Enemies are constantly pitted against enemies as animosity is the atmosphere this prison likes to create so that a maelstrom is always on the verge of erupting here. It is this environment’s fault that men cannot find peace anymore and it is unforgiving about the price it exacts. Its culpability is often excused by being in the middle of nowhere; out of sight and out of mind…and yet, here, the lives of men always stand perched at the edge of an abyss.



There is a story here to be told that began on the day of January 31st, 2010 that should be a glaring blemish to the face of Ely State Prison and has only been partially told and discredited by the accounts of the system, but it happened.



One this day, even under lockdown circumstances, men banded together to fight the oppression and expose it for what it is. These men bled for conditions imposed on them; for the wrongs slapping them in the face daily and for the right to be treated humanely. The end result: Nothing changed, two officers were fired of the dozen or so that were involved and any investigation into the wrongs at Ely were stymied as it swept its actions under a rug.



Only prisoners, physically injured, are left to tell of that day as it truly happened.



A ranked officer on probationary employment and his entourage had the swagger of uncaring, modern day gunslingers without a thought of consequences or that laws actually governed them. They dared anyone to challenge their authority over and over. It had actually been an action begun way before the day in question so this wasn’t the first time. Yet no investigation took place until fourteen prisoners decided it was time to make a stand. They had just witnessed another inmate beaten bloody during a cell extraction where no resistance was offered and his blood smeared in a swath across the plexiglass window of the sally-port. At that moment, a line was crossed and a cause had been born without a face.



No other way existed for prisoners to keep a measure of dignity except force the actions of the free-roaming cavaliers of injustice to target them. It was past time; a day of reckoning was set.



In a twist of fate, after just eight brutal, bloody extractions that included a stabbed officer and a verbal threat suggesting that blood would flow all night, the stamina of prison staff was expelled. They wanted no more problems and decided to use chemical agents to finish their extractions. Opposition had changed their mind, It should be known that no emergency situation actually existed to require physical extractions when inmates were locked securely in their cells.



The arrogance of Ely State Prison forced the actions of January 31st, 2010. At the end, eight prisoners bloodied; some hospitalized. Many were left in bare cells without necessities and bleeding from their wounds while little or no medical attention was offered. No true resolution was received and the actions of Ely State Prison have not ceased while prisoners wear the scars of resistence.



Nothing has changed here; no quarter was given or spared. The days become a grind and a test against the will to stay strong or remain sane. The courts and system in Nevada are taxed beyond capabilities so they refuse to do more than sit on technicalities and talk nice to the public. Even now, their lies stink of corruption.



Prison is a game in Nevada that is ignored and no one cares to look beyond the dilapidated veneers of control. It is oppression. A torturous cycle that will return to destroy another prisoner and leave acceptable excuses in its wake. It must STOP!



Voices can be heard and actions can be taken but it starts outside these walls with any who care enough to see an upside down system set right again through reform. One day a prisoner’s life may depend on a helping hand that may not be there leaving blood on another’s hands, so reach out…



Contact the Powers That Be, contact the NDOC and try to affect change. Don’t let them continue to wiggle off of the hook…



Feel free to write to:

John Neff # 54213

P.O. Box 1989

Ely, NV 89301

Another Nevada prisoner death at Ely State Prison

From Nevada Prisoner Voice:

ANOTHER NEVADA PRISONER DEATH AT ELY STATE PRISON?

Ricky Vell Masters, Age 50 and 8 Months
Born 12/10/58 Died 08/12/2009
RIP

Location: The Infirmary
Cause of Death: Pending
Manner of Death: Pending

Did Mr. Masters repeatedly request help for days before he died?

NOTE: In our opinion, families need to ask their loved ones in prison to provide them instructions in case of their deaths, whether it is by NDOC or any prison system neglect, or by their own hands.

If Nevada Department of Corrections’ (NDOC) cremation is not desired, loved ones need to notify wardens and the director’s office, in writing, that they don’t want NDOC cremation, that loved ones will make their own arrangements.

It has been reported that NDOC officials have allowed prisoner remains to be cremated prior to notifying loved ones.

Take positive action to create control today. Create a paper trail for lawsuit purposes, in the tragic event that this may happen to someone you love.

Prison smoking ban won’t apply to religious ceremony

Las Vegas Sun

By Cy Ryan
Friday, July 24, 2009 | 1:50 a.m.

CARSON CITY – Despite a newly imposed ban on smoking at Nevada prisons, American Indians will still be able to puff tobacco in their ceremonial pipes during their religious ceremonies.

Howard Skolnik, director of the state Department of Corrections, has told a state advisory Indian committee that the pipe smoking practice will be allowed to continue as long as there are not abuses.

Skolnik and Senior Deputy Attorney General Janet Traut expressed concern that many non-Indians would invade religious ceremonies in the sweat lodges just to get a smoke.

There’s a rumor at the prison that a single cigarette is going for $50, she said. “Inmates really value it.”

The smoking ban applies to both inmates and staff.

Regulations allow only those who have ties with Indian tribes or groups to participate in the sweat lodges ceremonies.

Concern has been expressed that some non-Indians have participated in the religious ceremonies for a long time. Skolnik told members of the Advisory Committee on the Treatment and Religious Freedom of American Indian Inmates in Nevada Correctional Facilities that he is willing to consider those individual cases.

Rocky Boice, a member of the advisory committee, said after the meeting that the prison system has been trying for several years to dissolve the sweat lodges. Boice, a sweat lodge leader who visits the various prisons in Northern Nevada to conduct ceremonies, said he feels the prison is in violation of “a lot of federal laws” involving freedom of religion.

“It’s something that we have got to keep working on,” said Boice. “We have got to keep these ceremonies going. It’s all the Native Americans have in there, the right to practice their native spirituality.”

The sweat lodge is a circular structure in the prison yard, covered with blankets or other materials. Rocks are heated on the outside by fires and then brought into the lodge and placed in the center. Water is poured on the rock to produce steam.

The Indians sing and pray and at the end of the ceremony smoke the pipe. Boice said the smoking of the pipe releases the prayers of the inmate. And these are “purification ceremonies” says Boice.

“The Native American religion is the oldest in the United States and we have to defend it,” said Boice.

Boice also complained that the raw food at these ceremonies was banned. But Skoknik told him this was done by the state Health Division. Cooked food is allowed in these ceremonies where the Indians sit around the heated rocks during the religious offerings.

Some public comments, made at the Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners, July 14, 2009

For the Record

Meeting of the Board of Prison Commissioners

July 14, 2009

To the Members of the Prison Commission and the Public,

Since last meeting, April 14th, nothing has changed that I have noticed: inmates in Ely State Prison are still not being treated properly for serious medical problems, the prison is still on lockdown except for 2 units, some inmates are kept illegally on a ‘High Risk Potential’ even though there are no apparent reasons to keep them on this inhuman status (keeping an inmate on a leash while he has to walk through the visiting room to the restroom during a visit, sounds a lot like what we saw on pictures in the media of Abu Ghraib).

There also are no programs, no steps, to step down from one level to the next.

Inmates are not able to make telephone calls according to the rules, because telephones are not brought to the inmates when they need to make a call to their relatives.

Cleaning material is scarcely handed out if at all. There are far too many strip-searches, even though it is even noted in the media that it is some employees who bring in illegal drugs, not inmates. Strip-searches are inhumane and the ones who have to check up become dehumanized too by doing them so often. People, whether inside or out, have to be able to retain their dignity.

Also, I hear that very recently, order forms were taken out of catalogues of a bookseller, by those employed in ESP in unit 3, so that the inmates are discouraged to (or can not even) order any books to read. This is unnecessary and it only produces a dangerous level of lethargy and disturbance of minds.

Also, mentally ill patients are being housed in this maximum security prison, whereas it is not meant to be a mental hospital. This brings along high levels of noise and disturbance for those patients (who need treatment) as well as those next door who try to make something of their lives, even if they are locked up. See also the article in Las Vegas Sun recently, July 12 (http://lasvegassun.com/news/2009/jul/12/illness-keeps-many-cycle-through-jail/).

There needs to be a change of mentality in society, in Nevada, within the Department of Corrections, from only cutting costs without any alternative and improvement to making society better and by doing this, preventing crime and cutting cost by not having to house so many people for years on end with no goal, no medical care, no redemption, no growth, no forgiveness, no love.

Is this a message for ‘soft-hearts’? I think it takes guts to want to change and engage in supporting children so that they grow up becoming balanced adults, in stead of greedy, corrupt, selfish people who will believe that crime (doing bad) pays and that being greedy is good. It takes courage to really invest in rehabilitating people who have made wrong decisions, who have succumbed to becoming addicted to hard-drugs. It is not only stupid to be so-called “tough on crime” by not wanting to see what this system results in, it will cost society ultimately too much in money and dangerous situations (most inmates will one day be released!) to lock people up with no alternative and to not want to see they are people, with needs just like you and me. We who pay for the prison system, you and me (I too pay tax over there, as well as those who are incarcerated pay tax), we want oversight over what is happening to our money; and we whose parents, children, husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends, siblings are locked up: we want to know that even though they are locked up, they are at the same time looked after and offered chances for growth and rehabilitation.

The amount of lawsuits against the warden of ESP is growing, and do we really want our money to go to these lawsuits, if a better warden would be found, who listens and acts when it matters, and who is not a frightening dictator under whose management diabetics rot to death? Surely Nevada can do much better than this!

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TO: NEVADA STATE BOARD OF PRISON COMMISSIONERS

FROM: MERCEDES MAHARIS MA MS MA

RE: DEATHS AND UNACCEPTABLE PRISON CONDITIONS

DATE: 14 July 2009

Good Day.

Requested prisoner deaths from May of 2007 to the present have failed to arrive, but here is a partial list only from Carson County, for your information:

Anthony Weber 05/02/07

Richard Adams 05/10/07

Michael Kisling 05/19/07

Warren Staden 06/06/07

Anthony Melchor 06/08/07

Pioquinto Herrera 06/27/07

Virgil Stephens 07/06/07

Virgil Perry 07/29/07

Maynard Humphrey 08/09/07

Mark Miller 08/15/07

Ronald Royston 09/03/07

Michael Wallace 09/03/07

Robert Boswell 11/25/07

Dale Burroughs 12/19/07

Edwin Chartier 12/20/07

James Bey 02/13/08

Jack Leafdale 03/06/08

Lawrence Booker 03/10/08

Luther Hayslip 03/21/08

Armondo Claro-Garcia 03/26/08

Johnnie McGraw 05/18/08

John Stafford 05/27/08

Darren Enlow 05/29/08

Thomas Smith 05/31/08

Hermenegildo Escalara-Barragan 06/02/08

John Dillon 06/04/08

Sylvester Azbill 06/08/08

Bobby Boswell 06/12/08

Felipe Azanon 06/21/08

David St. Pierre 07/07/08

Thomas Zanetti 08/22/08

Pinkus Ralzin 08/29/08

Jose Obregon 09/23/08

William Barney 10/15/08

Donald Tanner 11/04/08

Sever Marga 12/05/08

Raymond Price 12/06/08

Michael Bowman 12/25/08

Though I was polite in my inquiry, the director of nursing hung up in my ear, after telling me to go to your office, AG Cortez Masto. But, to date I have received no answer to my inquiries for NDOC death data and other requests. Why is your staff unable to find my letters and answer them? Is NDOC also losing death data, or not recording it? Your public information staff member told me she would call me back regarding my inquiries, but, she has not.

For your direct information, here are copies of my certified letters to you, AG Masto:

11 May 2009

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto

Office of the Attorney General
100 North Carson Street
Carson City, Nevada 89701-4717

Dear Attorney General Cortez Masto,

I met you at the 21 Feb 2009 meeting of the League of Women Voters of Las Vegas Valley where you spoke on “The Role of the Board of Prison Commissioners.” I’m the lady from Arizona who came a long way to hear you. Remember that we spoke both before and after the meeting?

I shared with you that new leadership was needed for the prisons. You told me that I might like to attend the commissioners’ meeting in April because Mr. Miller was going to bring that up.

Well, I need your help. I spoke at the 14 April meeting, you may remember, and made a written submission for the record, what I see as a pattern of failure, abuse and ways to stop lawsuits.

20 April 2009 I emailed a request for a “DVD and/or audio” of the Nevada State Board of Prison Commissioners’ meeting of 14 April 2009 to Secretary of State Ross Miller’s office assistant, Sally.

I received no email reply. 30 April 2009 I called Mr. Miller’s office. Ms. Sally Lincoln told me that Mr. Miller had sent you my request. She said that he had concerns about fulfilling my request because of family privacy rights that concerned him. But, this was a public meeting.

Ms. Lincoln told me that they had no projected date as to when you would have a decision on whether or not my request could be fulfilled.

Will you please have Mr. Miller’s office send immediately (advise me of costs if there are costs):

a copy of the DVD recording of the meeting (containing both pictures and audio); plus,
a copy of the submissions made to the prison board; and
the sign in list.
I wish that you had given some hope to us at the meeting, a comforting word or two. We want prisoners to succeed. Please do so in the future? We need fully accredited to professional standards… in all areas.

In closing, can you please send what happened during the disturbance in High Desert State Prison 13 April 2009 that Mr. Skolnik talked about at the14th board meeting? Please include photos of both prisoners and guards who were injured, if they were? I sincerely hope all are in good health now.

And my second certified letter:

And:

19 June 2009

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto

Office of the Attorney General
100 North Carson Street
Carson City, Nevada 89701-4717

Dear Attorney General Cortez Masto,

Three requests for information, please, from the NDOC? If these is a charge for copying, please advise

1. Please send the updated death list information for NDOC prisoners for who have expired while inside NDOC: 20 May 2009 to the present; (NDOC Nursing Director ref’d me to your office);

2. Please send what happened during the disturbance in High Desert State Prison 13 April 2009 that Mr. Skolnik talked about at the14 April board meeting including photos of both prisoners and guards who were injured, if they were? I sincerely hope all are in good health now; and

3. Please send a record of use of force inside NDOC facilities for the past five years, with photos;

4. Please send breakdown of those in solitary confinement, Ad Seg or Dis Seg, as I believe NDOC

officials refer to it, by time and race since 01 January 2007. Years ago NDOC officials did not keep this information. I hope they do now since it is important to understand how officials are administrating Nevada prisons in this regard.

Please answer my inquiries as soon as possible?

Why were staff members unable to prevent this recent tragic death at High Desert State Prison?

Bryan Tyler Nowell, Age 45
Administrative Segregation/Disciplinary Segregation Unit (The HOLE: Solitary Confinement)
Born 05/17/64
Died 03 June 2009
Suicide: Asphyxia by Hanging

Solitary confinement, as I submitted to you in my comments 14 April 2009, the Dr. Stuart Grassian report referenced, causes damage to human beings and in this case, death. We must stop this inhumane process today. Please give the order to Director Skolnik, Governor Gibbons, AG Cortez Masto, Mr. Miller… today, that solitary confinement stops now.

How many suicides have happened since May 2007 in Nevada prisons?

How are first line responders on duty in Nevada prisons educated to recognize those who are mentally unstable and may be thinking of taking their lives?

Are corrections officers advised about who is taking psychotropic drugs? Shouldn’t they know this in order to prevent suicide and other violence?

What is the budget for first responder education?

For a person to die in solitary confinement, or be allegedly gassed approximately 20 times and have a guard break a finger in a food slot at Ely State Prison recently, per a new Ely lawsuit in US District Court, is unacceptable and socially reprehensible. Prisoners are people.

Why are NDOC officials denied a prisoner with a rare liver disease medical care at High Desert, Mr. Miller? Will you please visit him to see for yourself? Will he die before release? Don’t you want to see his refused medical grievances? His life is at stake.

Why are NDOC officials shuttling the Ely HIV prisoner, whom guards there and at NSP have beaten, stabbed and shot during his Nevada incarceration, for treatment to High Desert, even though there are no specialists there to help him? Does this not further stress this prisoner to the point that he, too, will die young? Please move this prisoner to NNCC where he belongs.

We want to see education for officers and staff in violence prevention in Nevada prisons.

Where does the prison food coming from? What is the daily cost now? Why are we receiving reports of Nevada prisons serving expired food and that it is dwindling in serving sizes? How many calories are our prisoners getting daily? Where are the dieticians to supervise food service? Is it true that Nevada prisoner requests for Kosher food are not being honored?

What about those prison buses that the Department of Transportation has no responsibility to check for safety during prisoner transports? Who manufacturers those buses? Who inspects them and how often? How do prisoners get out alive if there is an accident? Are they coached on what to do in case of an accident to be able to get out safely? Why don’t prisoners get to see out? Are bus drivers licensed commercially? How many buses are there?

Is it true that NDOC officials allow senior corrections officers to recruit informants, snitches in prison terms, from the prison population, putting even more stress on prisoners. Do they order corrections officers to put prisoners on the train to Ely without due process? How much retaliation takes place against those who refuse? To what extent is retaliation taking place?

Why do Nevada prison mailrooms refuse to deliver books to prisoners, approved books that arrive? What happens to books undelivered to prisons? Why do corrections officers read magazines that families and loved ones pay for and reportedly keep them from the prisoners for weeks? Why don’t mailroom officials follow mail AR’s? Why do you allow punishment to all Ely prisoners by making them use tiny ink well fillers to write their letters with? To stop them from writing to loved ones and filing lawsuits?

Are you being loyal to the law by allowing unaccredited standards, operations and policies to continue inside Nevada prisons?

Why don’t Nevada prisoners in solitary confinement get daily fresh air and exercise, as is their right? Why do corrections officers take prisoners out at midnight, interrupting the sleep cycle?

Why do you allow Ely lockdown for years and years and years to continue? Please stop this today. You have the power. You can do it.

What are the guidelines for putting people into solitary confinement, ad seg, dis seg, to use your euphemisms?

Where are the felony charges against Nevada prisoners who are in solitary for extended periods?

Please produce the records of how long prison officials are keeping Nevada prisoners in solitary confinement.

Why don’t Nevada prisoners go to jail for assaults? Why don’t Nevada corrections officers go to jail for assaults?

How are the perpetrators of rape charged? Do they go to court? Or, do NDOC officials punish them by extending sentences without due process?

What are the NDOC regulations for time limits, if any, placed on people going into solitary?

Where are, and what are, the administrative regulations for the amount of time that officials can put prisoners in solitary confinement?

How much money is in the budget for corrections officers’ educations about recognition of mental health problems that prisoners may be suffering?

Here are excerpts of a letter from a prisoners’ family member that we received 13 July 2009:

…” I have suffered 13 years under the duress and frustration of the corrupt Nevada Prison System, Judicial system period. This is the “Country of Nevada”. Good Ole boys for sure and Ely guards are barbarians! P.up trucks drinking in the hills, cruel, I have seen the bleeding wounds on my husband’s ankles from having the shackles set to wear they rub and rub and break open old scabs from the week before, one guard will hike them up and tighten them another will just let them shift all around, I mean come on, walk from port to visit belly chain hands behind back cuffed shackles like he,s the incredible hulk and an escort officer, sometimes two, give me a break!

Ooooh are those guards tough, gag me, disgusting display of over the top unnecessary pain for the prisoner and extreme drama to increase the all ready distorted sense of importance these guards have!

No wonder they have such domestic violence problems!

…we do not trust anyone in connection with law they are all crooked corrupt tools of the higher echelon of our corrupt legal system.

As I stated I have suffered 13 years as has my husband I am ready to take a stand no matter what this lousy system needs to be torn down from the top down.”

What response do you advise us to give to this free person who is suffering daily because of operations and policies at Ely State Prison?

Please, take the high road in eliminating unacceptable Nevada prison conditions starting today. Implement a platform of rehabilitation and hope.

Please replace ineffective NDOC leadership with professional administration.

Please implement oversight in Nevada prisons today==before more violence erupts and the death toll for Nevada prisoners continues to escalate.

Yours truly,

Mercedes Maharis MA MS MA