Mass Punishment Continues at MSP: Is Commissioner Ponte Using Smoke and Mirrors?

June 30th. 2011

The need for expression is heavily upon me.

Once again, these prison officials are clearly enjoying themselves by harassing us and imposing “mass punishment” on the vast majority of us for reason(s) that still require explanation.

Bear [sic] with me a moment.  The cells here are rather small for two (2) men to share.  For whatever reason, the one (1) man cells in the other part of the prison are larger than the two(2) men cells.  There is one (1) toilet in an open area in the cell.  If one has to urinate, one turns his back to the other one and urinates.  If one has to defecate, well, one must hold it.  It is an unwritten law here that one does not defecate while two (2) men are in the cell.  One waits until the cell door is opened for “outside of cell time” to begin.

In any event, we were fed in our cells this morning and now allowed out (64 of us comprise this living area, called a “pod”).  We were also fed in our cells this afternoon and not let out.  Around 1P.M., we were individually stripped naked and subjected to a cavity search, then had our cells searched and torn apart.  During the course of this fiasco, “not” one man was found with any contraband on his person or cell.

At approximately 4P.M., the pod officer informed all 64 prisoner’s that we were being placed on a certain type of cell restriction, per order Sergeant Anthony Petrino.  This type of cell restriction is called “split tier”.  It is a mass punishment that is illegal and punishes many, most; rather than the wrong-doer.  My understanding is prison official found two (2) razor blades in a “common area”.  There was no way of telling who put them where-ever or however long ago!  So this Sgt. Petrino says though he doesn’t know who the wrong-doer is, though he doesn’t even know how long the blades were there, he has placed the entire pod of 64 men on split tier, e.g., cell restriction!  Is this just or fair?  No!  It is illegal and subjects innocent men to 8th Amendment violations of Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Indeed, “Blake v. Hall”, 6687.2d52 (57-58) (1st. Circuit 1981) States:” the court has decided: we see no reason why “well-be-haved” [sic] inmates should have to suffer cruel and unusual punishment because of the activities of some disruptive ones.  Need I say anymore?!

Forgive me, as I have gotten ahead of myself.  Back to sergeant Petrino.  After his announcement of this illegal cell-restriction, I went to the pod officer and requested a Grievance Form (contrary to MDOC policy and the U.S. Constitution), there are, rather, per Commissioner Joseph Ponte, all Grievance Forms have been “removed” from our living areas!  We now must beg prison officials for grievances, even then we are denied them!  In any event, after requesting a grievance form, the officer informed me that 15-20 men had already requested grievances, that he called in that request to sergeant Petrino and he was “not” giving anyone any grievances and we were being placed on “split tier”.

After the above, I tore my paperwork apart and found a Grievance I had not used (sending you my copy).  I filled the grievance out and presented it to Sgt. Petrino.  Well!  He outright “refused” to accept it…Can you believe that?  Sure you can.  Now they begin to play their games again.  [Four sentences omitted by Sophie].  And it will go on and on and on!!!

Just got your letter to me.  Thank you so much for caring enough to give me a response.  That means an awful lot to me.

At this time, you are being given “my blanket consent to show “anything” I mail to you to your blog, newsletter, other agencies etc. etc.  just stick by me, don’t runaway form me.  Should these prison officials send me to another state because I’ve asserted my right to “Freedom of Speech”, so be it.  That will give you that much more to write about.  I fear none by Allah!!

Since I began this letter, anther sergeant has informed me that the order to restrict us to “split tier” came directly from Commissioner Ponte.  I would like to say I don’t believe that because Mr. Ponte is quoted as saying, he doesn’t believe in “mass punishment” and that mass punishment would no longer be tolerated.  Yet, it’s existing.

I don’t know if you are aware of it, however, Lance Tapley of the Portland Phoenix did a piece on Ponte and gave him high marks!  To say the least, I believe that the high marks were premature.  What Ponte has/is doing, is akin to the slave going from chattel slaver to economic slavery.  He says the is going to lower the number of prisoner’s in SMU; that happened for a very short while.  Currently, SMU is filling up again!  Many, many men are put on cell restriction as opposed to SMU (chattel to economic slaver, good analogy).  Also, Ponte stated, no man would be housed in SMU over seven (7) days unless he receives a disciplinary violation.  As of this writing I know of a minimum of ten (10) men in SMU still sitting down there on investigation close to a “month”.  No disciplinary violation.  He said no mass punishment, yet, he is said to be the one who said “put them in cell restriction”, as a means of mass punishment.  I believe he is hoodwinking people in your circle to take some sting out of the bite.

I’m enclosing you’re my copy of my latest grievance.  Please do with that and this letter whatever you feel will be most beneficial to us in here.  You said you are our Voice.  Please know, we want to hear your voice as loud as possible.

Okay, I’m going to bring my rambling to a close.  I want to get this in the mail ASAP.

Please take care, don’t forget about us and write back to me “soon”.



Please Note:  Although it is the policy of Voices to keep the letters as true to form as possible there are occasions, such as this, when small changes are made in order to protect the identity of the inmate. 


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