Complaint to Commissioner Ponte RE: Grievance Procedure, Mass Punishment, SMU, and Mailroom Issues

Donald [last name omitted]

July 10th, 2011

Maine State Prison

Warren, Me  04864


Commissioner Joseph Ponte

111 State House Station

Maine Dept. of Corrections

Augusta, Me  04333-0111


Dear Sir:

Because I’ve wrote you four (4) letter in the last three (3) months and received “no reply” from you, I had told myself that I would not write to you again.  I would be pleasantly surprised if you responded to this letter as well.

In any event, due to policy violations, violations to the various amendments to the U.S. Constitution, violations against “fellow human beings”, etc. etc., the need for expression is to heavily upon me not to write.

As of this writing, you have/are subjecting over 100 (!!) prisoner’s to “Mass Punishment” (incidentally, you previously stated you had one away with this “Mass Punishment”).

Approximately ten (10) days ago, I (and many, many other’s) was subjected to a dehumanizing butt-naked strip search and had my cell torn apart by officer’s for only God know’s [sic] what.  There was “no” contraband found and “no” disciplinary report’s [sic] handed out to anyone.  So why am I being subjected to your “mass punishment”?  I’ve never had a disciplinary violation, indeed, I’ve done nothing but demonstrate exemplary behavior.

Mass punishment/Split Tier/Cell Restriction are synonymous.

As of this writing, I (and myriad other’s) have been placed on “split tier status”, which in itself constitutes cell restriction.  I am entitled to no less cell restriction than other’s in my class.  Yet, I am being punished and treated as if I’ve done something wrong in here and I haven’t.  Similarly, the Due Process Clause by itself requires prison official to make a finding of guilt for a disciplinary violation in a “procedurally” manner “before” imposing “any kind” of adverse sanctions.  Anything short of that must be construed as “wrongful restriction”.  Needless to say, having unjustifiably, placing me on split-tier, cell restriction, mass punishment constitutes violation of a liberty interest and “wrongful restriction”.

Which brings me to the Grievance Procedure you stated to many that you were going to upgrade.  Truthfully, not relishing being the bearer of bad news, the grievance procedure here ad Maine State Prison is Warren has gone from bad to worse.  Ad you know, the Unit Team has nothing to do with the grievance procedure.  In order to get a grievance form (which should be readily available to prisoner’s) one must “jump through hoops” and placate Sgt. Petrino, when he is the supervisor held accountable for giving a prisoner a grievance.  Case in point, approximately ten (10) days ago when I (and the other’s) were erroneously placed on this mass punishment, split-tier/cell restriction I happened to have my own grievance, wrote it concerning the above, presented it to Sgt. Petrino and he initially refused to sign it!  Only after I made that known to a captain (who said he would speak to Sgt. Petrino and have the sergeant sign off on the grievance if he couldn’t resolve it) did Sgt. Petrino finally sign off on the grievance indicating he could not resolve the split-tier, etc. issue.  Since the erroneous implementation of the mass punishment, split-tier, cell restriction unlike prisoner’s in my class, roughly 20 prisoner’s [sic] have requested grievances from Sgt. Petrino for the very same reason as I did, yet, after already stating he could not solve the issue grieved, he required all 20 men to put in writing a “request” to him for a grievance, so he could write back that he couldn’t resolve that grievance!  That kind of dictatorship and procrastination is not healthy and not conducive to any good end.

The above behavior, I suppose, borders on the verge of restriction to access to the court which is a U.S. Constitution amendment.  Indeed, when one must exhaust one’s administrative grievance process prior to taking an issue to a U.S. District Court, procrastinating can prove to be costly to that prisoner.  As you very well know, the only available option a prisoner has to deal with prison conditions, ill treatment, policy violations, etc. is the grievance.  That being the case, it should not be dangled in front of a prisoner like a bone is to a dog.  With that being said, grievance forms should be “readily accessible” to a prisoner.

I recall reading an article published in the Portland Phoenix that you had done away with prisoner’s languishing in SMU over seven (7) days on investigation.  Well, currently there are probably between 15-20 prisoner’s in SMU for investigation and have been in SMU for “weeks”.  A far cry from seven (7) days.

In closing, I refer you to a statement you made to the Portland Phoenix, “I’m holding all their feet to the fire”, Ponte says of prison staff.  Now, if that statement can come to fruition, we would have a slight possibility of some progress.

Incidentally, in the last three (3) weeks, I’ve had two (2) letters from the United States District Court that were opened “before” they reached me.  Policy Title: Prisoner Mail, Policy Number: 21.2, Procedure D: page 13 of 20, excerpt from #9: “Incoming privileged mail shall be handled in the same manner as incoming general mail, except that it may not be opened without the prisoner being present”.

Thank you for your time, patience and understanding.


Donald [last name omitted]


Copies mailed to:

  2. Jim Bergin/Judy Garvey-M-Pac
  3. Lance Tapley-Portland Phoenix
  4. Rachel Talbot Ross-NAACP

One response to “Complaint to Commissioner Ponte RE: Grievance Procedure, Mass Punishment, SMU, and Mailroom Issues

  1. Donald I don’t know what can be done about the mass punishments, but the opened District Court letters are as you point out specific violations. Your challenge is HOW to prove they were opened before you received them. There must be video coverage of all hallways, if they record that you might have video showing your letter being taken from the mail cart already open before it is handed over or put in your door slot or however they do it. Tiny chance but you never know. .Don’t know how long they keep such recordings when otherwise no incidents occur.



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