Fed Up with the High Cost of a Call to Mom: And a History of MSP Mailroom Issues

July 26, 2011

Hello,

We keep crossing our kites in the mail.  I’m gonna have to refrain from composing my thoughts.

I’m glad you found [name omitted].  Pray that he did not return back to [place omitted].

This place picks & choses whose mail they can screw with.  [date omitted] had a T.R.O. GRANTED against these prison official due to controversial mail practices.  Within two (2) months I was transferred to another facility.  But it woke these lames up plenty.  Not easy getting a temporary restraining order on a state agency.

I’ve filed my share of grievances against those capricious personnel working in mailroom.  They never sign their names who illegally destroyed and/or opened someone’s mail.  As legal mail is “suppose” to be opened in your presence.  A convict will only get a jotted notation on his envelop “opened by mistake” with two (2) initials below & “mailroom” signed.

We’ve some felonious fiends caged here.  So some have tried to smuggle drugs thru cards, between court transcripts, stamps.  Why no perfumed or crayoned pictures by children are allowed!  Let alone a kite from someone’s mate seeking to entice him by perfumed scent.  We have the so called “security” phase the sporting staff must always preach to the general public.  So there’s a little tid-bit that can swiftly enlighted [sic] the public plenty.  Thomaston, Maine prison for 30 or 40 years (or more) housed only prisoners classified “maximum” security.  In 2000, they built this dump to house maximum and medium security prisoners.  Of course Thomaston prison house [sic] just over #400 inmates.  Whereas, Warren holds twice as many.  So the diminished person serving time here decreased from 23 to age 20 let’s say.  First few months here the “mile” walkway was some bloody.

This past week, someone in ‘close custody’ sliced this medium security inmate over in recreation area.  So Fri-Sun, we had limited inmates at rec.  From now on, no inmates with different classifications will be in activities building.  When we come and go there’s way more shakedown.  Twice we are all patdown [sic] searched before and after we are done eatting [sic].  These shallow personnel protecting me from getting brutalized are really whining about having to do work now.  (Giggling)

I did one of two previous lawsuits against this dump for gross mishandling of our mail.  Eventually another suit will have to be lodged in Kennebec superior court.  Never in Knox count.  Good ole’ boy syndrome trickles all the way to Rockland, ME.

Past three (3) weeks I’m drafting a major civil action to lodge in court on bogus phone system this prison charges consumers.  I’m some tired of them charging 30c a minute, and 3c per call if party is not home.  Crazy!

Enclosed please find Maine-PAC response as to where we stand on pursuing parole options.  A couple ex-cons that are close friends are being pursued into finally stepping up to the place & pushing this crusade.  (Smiling)

[2 paragraphs omitted for confidentiality of inmate]

Soon as I draft that suit up…I hope you can retype the quest for possible additional plaintiffs.  Looks much better on the petitioned injunction too.  Man don’t defendants hate T.R.O.’s and injunctions.  But I don’t like coughing up $5.00 for a 16 minute call to my Mom.

I was just staring at my sloppy penmanship.  I am in a hurry and must improve my handwriting.  You are a blessing and a much need insights on exposing this warehousing of felons.

Much respect & grace,

[name omitted due to pending litigation]

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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.

Respectfully,

Donald [last name omitted]

 

Copies mailed to:

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

Getting Mail in Maine State Prison: Is it Just the Luck of the Draw?

Dear Sophie,                                                                           6-27-2011

[First sentence omitted for confidentiality reasons.]  Its great your [sic] replying to the prisoner’s correspondence.  Most of us do not have any voice at all outside these walls.  We send letters all over and never get a response.  Its enlightening to see a person like you shed some light on the multiple human rights violations that accure [sic] here everyday [sic].

I sent you a package with a few complains about Sgt Ross, c/o Carl, and case manager Dryer.  You have forwarded them to your blog and the commissioner, however, I have not received them back.  I know for a fact you have sent them, but it seem that the mail room filters our personal mail and decided upon their own judgment if it is permissionable [sic].

I received an evolope [sic] from you on 6-24-2011.  On the front of the envolope [sic] it said no solicitation, disposed of solicitation.  The envolope [sic] was empty.

This causes great stress on my behalf and probaly [sic] yours to as we both know that your correspondence was not solicitation.  However who can argue that if it was disposed of.  I didn’t see what was in it and never offered to see it!

I have contacted a prisoner in here that is very active concerning Prisoners [sic] rights.  He is writing a small note for me looking into the law and how it violates our rights.  I have also filed a grievance concering [sic] this issue.  When it gets answered I will forward it to you.  I do not plan for the prison to resolve this issue at [sic] they fail to do anything constructive here.

I still try to stay productive in this oppressive prison.  Keep u the great work and I will write again in a few days.

Ps. I am starting a log with the out going and incoming mail.

Henry

 

 

Please Note: The complaint that Henry is referencing can be read here.  Sophie has sent the complaint, that he wrote, back to Henry twice (once as a copy and once the original) but he has not received it at the time of this post. 

Are Facebook and a Shredder the Reason 200 Inmates are Missing Mail?

Just when I thought the administration at the Maine State Prison in Warren could not sink any lower, they have once again proved me wrong.

Over the last 3 months prisoners have called home or gone to visits only to be met by concerned and upset wives or girlfriends or disappointed children; all wondering why prisoners are not answering their mail.

The answer is simple.  We are not getting it.

When prisoners complain they are met with the excuse that there is only one mail room [sic] clerk and that mail is backed up.

That excuse worked for awhile [sic] but when I was still waiting in April for letters that were mailed in March from friends and family I knew something was wrong, and what I’ve learned has shocked me.

In April I spoke w/the program administrative coordinator Bob Costigan and questioned him about how mail is handled and processed.  He informed me that as a prisoner my mail is not protected by the same laws as someone outside the fence.

I spoke w/numerous staff in the prison from sergeants, captains, deputy wardens and even the warden herself.  All of them assured me it was being looked into.

Now, here it is the third week of June and I am still not getting my mail.

Last month an officer who works here and who wishes to remain anonymous told me they [gender omitted by Sophie to protect officer throughout the next two paragraphs] has personally witnessed mail being shredded and thrown away by staff in the prison.  When I asked them why they [the mailroom] were doing this the person said, “Because there is too much mail to deal with.”

The officer also told me that they will sometimes leave mail at the post office “unclaimed” and have the post office send it back where it came from.

I have spoken to many prisoners who say their families have gotten mail back that is stamped, “refused” or that the prisoner is, “no longer in the facility.” Most of the mail that was not received by prisoners has just vanished and these numbers reach into the hundreds.  It includes personal letters with postal money orders or checks enclosed, magazine subscriptions and news papers [sic].

I wrote to the office of the inspector general for the U. S. postal service in Woburn, MA. and got no response.  A letter has also been sent to the post master [sic] in Bangor, ME.

As of 6-17-11 the mailroom clerk Nancy Shanholtzer informed me that she was all caught up w/mail and could offer no excuse for why 200 prisoners are missing mail, just in the month of June.

A friend I spoke w/on the phone told me he looked at Nancy Shanholtzer Facebook page and has seen her on numerous occasions chatting and e-mailing people during hours she should be processing prisoner mail.  I suppose on can find time to chat on line [sic] when they sort mail w/a shredder.

I would appreciate any help or suggestions form the streets.  The administration here is very good at silencing those they do not want to be heard.

John

6-19-11