Posts Tagged ‘lockdown’

“PHILADELPHIA – On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) continued its near-total lockdown of state prisons, confining most people in the department’s facilities to their cells 24 hours per day and prohibiting mail and visitation. According to the DOC, some facilities had some restrictions lifted over the weekend, and more facilities will lift restrictions throughout this week.

As the lockdown entered its seventh day, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania responded to the ongoing situation. The following can be attributed to Reggie Shuford, executive director of the ACLU of Pennsylvania:

“The continuing lockdown at the Department of Corrections is gravely serious. We share the department’s concern about the health of the staff. The health of the people who are incarcerated is also of utmost priority.

“Unfortunately, the DOC has failed to provide meaningful transparency in this situation, leaving loved ones of people who are incarcerated uninformed and anxious about what is happening. And the public statements on the DOC’s own website talk only about the health of staff, with no mention of how many prisoners have become ill. If staff have been ill, it’s reasonable to conclude that prisoners have been sick, too, although the lack of information makes that impossible to confirm. Either way, the department has left prisoners’ families and the public in the dark on the health of the people who are incarcerated.

“The DOC should immediately provide public information about how many prisoners, if any, have become ill and how families can check on the status of their loved ones.

“The department must also reinstate mail and visitation privileges as soon as possible, as mail and visitation are constitutionally protected rights for people who are incarcerated.

“In a radio interview today, Secretary Wetzel stated that facilities will be back to normal operations by next week if there are no more illnesses. If there are more illnesses, he simply stated that the department will ‘revisit’ the situation. That response is inadequate. We do not accept the notion that the DOC can hold prisoners in their cells 24 hours per day, stop mail, and end visitations and phone calls in every state facility every time a staff person becomes ill. The health of the DOC staff is certainly critical, as is the health and well-being of prisoners. A statewide lockdown is a heavy-handed response that is detrimental to the long-term health of people who are incarcerated.”


ACLU-PA Statement on Continuing Lockdown of Pennsylvania Prisons, September 4, 2018.

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“An Ontario judge cited “unduly harsh custodial conditions” in sparing further jail time for a small-time drug dealer who was busted after selling heroin to an undercover police officer.

Robert Duncan served just over 200 days of pretrial custody at the Toronto South Detention Centre (TSDC), according to a judge’s decision.

Duncan was on lockdown 38 times, according to a letter from a security manager at the facility that was filed in court and obtained by CBC Toronto. Almost all the lockdowns were due to staffing shortages and 15 of the incidents lasted longer than 24 hours.

“Duncan’s time in pretrial custody was qualitatively oppressive and physically detrimental,” Justice Katrina Mulligan wrote in her decision allowing Duncan to walk free. Mulligan sentenced Duncan to a fine and probation.

The defence contended that Duncan’s pretrial custody should be multiplied at a standard rate — one point five days for every one day served — and that he deserved an additional credit of 56 days, equal to about a year in custody, which Duncan’s defence successfully argued was appropriate for his crime.

Mulligan also found Duncan, who suffers from chronic back pain, received “questionable” medical treatment at the detention facility.

“He suffered more than others would or should,” she wrote.

Mulligan’s decision raises concerns about issues at a new and expensive detention centre that officially opened in 2014, and housed an average of 873 inmates in 2017, according to the province.

Criminal lawyers have told CBC Toronto that the lockdowns have contributed to shorter sentences for inmates, although there are no firm numbers about how often this happens.

Inmate says he was denied medication

The TSDC was the subject of a lengthy expose in Toronto Life magazine last year, while the province also faces a class action lawsuit over frequent lockdowns in detention facilities, including Toronto South.

The Toronto South Detention Centre was opened in 2014, but has been the subject of criticism in recent years. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

In an affidavit obtained by CBC Toronto, Duncan said he experienced “pain and numbness” following an injury in 1999 and was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his lumbar spine. Duncan also said he was given opioids when other treatments failed.

He said he was denied access to adequate medication while in custody and went through withdrawal in jail.

“Despite having my prescription information from my pharmacy,  they would not provide me with my regularly prescribed medication,” he wrote.

He said he experienced pain and dizziness, and had trouble sleeping after the first doctor he saw at Toronto South “would not prescribe opiates.”  

“My level of pain was unbearable.”

Province won’t discuss staffing

Monte Vieselmeyer, chair of the corrections division for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union, said the South is short-staffed.

“I would say we’re probably now … a good 50 to 100 full-time staff behind where we need to be,” he said.

A spokesperson for the province said in an email that there are “sufficient staff to run the institution in a safe and secure manner and new staff are added on a regular basis.” The spokesperson would not comment on staffing levels in detail, citing unspecified “security reasons.”

However, those staff are facing challenges.

There were 138 assaults by inmates on staff at TSDC in 2017, according to provincial statistics.

Sent to segregation

Duncan, who could not be reached for comment, described his time in custody in an affidavit filed in court.

In February, Duncan fell from his bunk and his head was cut open after he drank contraband alcohol. Reports written by responding staff and obtained by CBC Toronto describe Duncan as belligerent, and said he was using racist and misogynistic language before he was taken to hospital.

In his affidavit, Duncan said that after he was treated in hospital, he was escorted in a wheelchair to a van, where jail staff told him to stand. When he said he couldn’t, Duncan said detention centre staff lifted him by his arms, but he could not raise his legs.

“The officers then threw me forward into the van, head first, then threw my legs over top of me into the van,” Duncan wrote, adding he was left on the floor of the vehicle for the trip back to TSDC.

Upon return, Duncan said he was placed in segregation without a mattress or pillow.

Mulligan cited Duncan’s treatment by staff in explaining her decision to side with the defence and spare him further time in custody. Staff’s poor handling of Duncan’s medical condition, she wrote, combined with lockdowns, “contributed to what can only be described as unduly harsh custodial conditions.”

Igbokwe said human rights extend inside detention facilities, even if “jail is not intended to be a great, wonderful place to be.”

“At the end of the day, we live in a society that respects basic human rights,” she said.”

– Stephen Davis, “Convicted drug dealer faced ‘oppressive’ conditions inside Toronto jail, judge rules.” CBC News, August 23, 2018.

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Strike Statement to the Press; August 22, 2018

Statement regarding the ongoing Nationwide Prison Strike, 
issued August 22, 2018, Day 2 of the strike.

Issued by the Prison Strike Media Team

Amani Sawari
official outside media representative of Jailhouse Lawyers Speak

Jared Ware
Freelance Journalist covering prisoner movements
@jaybeware on Twitter

Brooke Terpstra
Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC)
National Media Committee
@IWW_IWOC on twitter

August 22, 2018

So the prisoner strike has been underway for more than 24 hours now. In the first day we got word of actions coming out from the prisons from Halifax, Nova Scotia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington and Folsom Prison in California reported strike action.

We saw outside solidarity actions in at least 21 cities around the US and as far abroad as Leipzig, Germany. We saw Palestinian political prisoners give a statement of solidarity from their prisons in occupied Palestine.

We called this conference call because those of us who have been coordinating media relations on the outside have been overwhelmed by the number of reporters and outlets who are covering the strike. Some of us who were involved with media relations in 2016 can say that the difference is dramatic and we thank you for your interest in this prisoner-led movement. Many of you have the same questions and so we want to give you all an opportunity to hear our responses in one place.

We want to note that although there aren’t widespread reports of actions coming out of prisons that people need to understand that the tactics being used in this strike are not always visible. Prisoners are boycotting commissaries, they are engaging in hunger strikes which can take days for the state to acknowledge, and they will be engaging in sit-ins and work strikes which are not always reported to the outside. As we saw in 2016, Departments of Corrections are not reliable sources of information for these actions and will deny them and seek to repress those who are engaged in them.

We have spoken with family members who have suggested that cell phone lines may be being jammed at multiple prisons in South Carolina, New Mexico had a statewide lockdown yesterday. The Departments of Corrections in this country are working overtime to try and prevent strike action and to try and prevent word from getting out about actions that are taking place.

As you report the strike, we encourage you to uplift the actions that we do know about, but also acknowledge that strikers may be resisting in ways that are tougher to quantify and view. We encourage outlets to issue FOIA requests to prisons that we believe will show attempts to quell the strike and also evidence of boycotts and other strike activity.

We also really want to remind the media that this strike is about ten different demands. While prison slavery has become a galvanizing force in the public eye, and it is a key element that prisoners are protesting against, they have given you ten specific demands and it is important to talk about all of them or report on them individually. People need to understand how truth in sentencing laws function, how gang enhancement laws function, and how the prison litigation reform act works and why these are things that prisoners are targeting their protest around. We need to be talking about the lack of rehabilitation programs, mental health care, and the lack of education programs and how this undermines the ostensibly rehabilitative nature of the prison system itself.

Prisoners crafted these demands carefully through national organizing, based on the circumstances of the Lee Prison violence that occurred earlier this year, in an understanding of how the state brings about the conditions of violence like that, and the types of changes that are necessary to prevent that sort of violence from recurring. This is a human rights campaign and each of these demands should be understood through a human rights lens.

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