Prisoner Abuse, Bigotry, and Murder in Maine State Prison

The Maine State Prison is plagued w/unprofessionalism and corruption, as well as racial and religious intolerance and prejudice.

I am 13 years into a double life sentence and I have recently decided that silence is no longer an option for me.  I have come to the realization that as a longtimer it is my duty to speak against the mistreatment and abuse of the prisoners I live with.  Especially the elderly and sick.  No longer will I be a silent bystander.

Not all the staff at the Maine State Prison fit into this category.  I would be willing to say that most are professional and realize that a prisoners prison and is their punishment, and understand that it is their job as officers to ensure safety and security; not further punishment.

However there is a substantail [sic] group form the top to the bottom who have their own ideas about how their jobs should be done.  They are very good at covering for one another and act with deliberate indifference.  They use intimidation, threats of violence and retaliation in order to discourage prisoners from issuing complaints against them.  On the rare occasion that complaints are made or acknowledged by the administration they are met with a half-hearted investigation and there is of course never evidence to verify the claims against staff.

Last September I witnessed an older gentleman get his face smashed off of a fence on the way to the chow hall.  Prisoners were told to get on the fence for a random pat search.  The older man looked confused because orders were being yelled by multiple cops including a captain.  Apparently he wasn’t moving fast enough, so the captain grabbed him and slammed him against the fence leaving wounds on his face and head.  When the prisoner later asked for help by other staff to file a complaint he was given the run around.  Does this sound like the behavior of a captain?  What king of example is being set for lower ranking officers?

Who can forget Victor Valdez?  I witnessed the beginning of the ordeal that would lead to his eventual death.  He was being served a write-up for a rule infraction.  He didn’t speak English well and the officer wouldn’t allow anyone to interpret.  I heard victor speaking in Spanish and the officer telling him to shut-up.

No mind you, the officer had an opertunity [sic] to de-escalate the whole situation.  Victor was in his cell.  The officer could have closed the door and allowed things to cool off, but instead he charged in; pushing his panic button to summon more officers and slammed the older man who was sick and on dialysis against the concrete wall.  The last time I saw Victor he was handcuffed with his arms being wretched above his head behind his back and was roughly escorted out of the pod.

Ironically, the same officer who initiated this confrontation w/Victor was in an argument with a prisoner in a pod he was working in months prior to this.  When in the middle of the argument he stood up and yelled, loud enough so everyone in the pod could hear, “I use to jump out of planes and kill people!” does this sound like a stable mind suitable for working in a prison environment?

It is not uncommon to hear prejudice or bigoted comments about a prisoners race or religious beliefs.  When African American prisoners are using the music room in the rec. yard, cops refer to it as Jungle day.  It is not uncommon to hear officers question or comment on whether a prisoner looks Native American when going to Native American gatherings.

The intolerance and bigotry doesn’t stop w/the cops.  It is an issue within the prison chaplaincy as well.  The chaplain and the administration make sure every accommodation is met for Christian services and events to go off without a hitch; while Pagans and others are treated like the bastard step-children of the prison.

Over the last few months staff have been more agitated and disgruntled about changes in Augusta.  They do not like the new commissioner and are stressing about budget cuts and changes in the prison.  So the staff have resorted to playing games to try and instigate and generate tensions among the prisoners.  One of their favorite places to do this is in the chow halls.  They will overfill one chow hall knowing that there aren’t enough seats for everyone, while leaving empty tables in other chow halls.

They know that by causing a brawl or potential riot in one of the most volatile places in the prison, they can better argue or quell any questions about over-staffing.

I could go on.  But I feel I’ve made my point.  Change is coming and I welcome it.  Prisoners will most likely lose some things with this new administration and I’m fine w/that if it means we won’t be at the mercy of this circus sideshow that has been running this prison for far too long.

I do know that the only way to ensure change is if we all speak out against staff abuse, treats and bigotry.

Silence and passivity have not worked in our favor!

-John

5-13-2011

Note from Sophie: I am attaching two links to articles about the murder of Victor Valdez that happened in 2009.  The courts ruled in favor of the prison, and inmates remain at the mercy of the murdering guard.

http://www.maineprisoneradvocacy.org/M-PAC_decries_AG_s_ruling_on_death_of_Victor_Valdez.pdf

http://thephoenix.com/boston/news/105972-prison-obituary-the-tragedy-of-victor-valdez/

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