3-Day Lockdown, Sexual Harassment, and Excessive Force at Maine Correctional Center

On September 19th I locked my cell door at [time omitted] expecting it to be unlocked again the following morning as usual at 5:30 a.m.  I wasn’t released until 11 p.m. on the 22nd.  They locked us down and did a complete shakedown of the facility.  At around 9 a.m. on the 20th, the cert-team from M.S.P. came into our 40-man block.  When they marched out and across the road in riot gear later on I counted 34-of them.  When I was unlocked, I, as all of us, were subjected to total strip searches in our open doorways in front of some woman who appeared there for no more reason than to check out and compare male body parts.  They did nothing but gawk at everyone.  We were allowed to put on boxers, tee-shirts, and shower shoes, then had to keep our hands behind our backs as we were marched out into the stairwell and up to the third floor.  We were sat in plastic chairs with our hands behind us, and facing each other in a big circle, for an hour and twenty minutes.  Then we were marched downstairs so the woman could get one more look at the fine specimens that we were.  The majority of us Irish.  Only one Frenchman in the lot.  She had a good day.

The devastation to our cells was complete.  I had a $16 flex light for reading.  they took the flexible shaft and clip saying my name was not on them.  The storeroom only puts it on the light itself they don’t usually separate the light from its clip.  Now the next search they’ll take the light saying it’s contraband without the clip.  Welcome to Ponte’s Playland…

They have us completely stripping and waxing every floor, even cells, and all of the cells are being painted.  Even the brass door handles are begin polished they fixed our shower curtain and cleaning-sink faucet, the faucet didn’t work at all and the shower is a sadistic nightmare to begin with.  All of this because of some inspection on Tuesday, the 4th [of October], something to do with a lawsuit.  I wish to hell it were mine!!

 

Letter from Maine Correctional Center

Windham, Maine

[name omitted for safety of inmate]

Third Complaint to Commissioner Ponte: Inmate Rallies for Better Treatment from Guards

This letter is [sic] regards to the wardens response.

Response enclosed.

Dear Commissioner Ponte                                                                  7-13-2011

I sent you two complaints concering[sic] the prison staff that you forwarded to the Warden Barnhart for her response.  One complaint regarded Sergeant Ross’s unprofessional behavior; the other was regarding caseworker Dyer’s incompetency to proform [sic] his work detail.  Soon after I received a dual response from the Warden who naturally avoided the true issue while supporting the professional misconduct.  I will clarify my previous communications.  The prison staff are harassing and oppressing the humanity of the prisoners on a daily basis!

While speaking with Caseworker Dyer I requested use of [details omitted] to obtain vital documents that are necessary to [details omitted].  I explained to him it would be near impossible to secure a higher education in the future if I was unable to complete this task.  I explained my prior failed attempts through the mail servise [sic], and, let him know my request was the last resort.  He denied [details omitted].  A few days later I went to him seeking the University of Pennylvaia’s [sic] address as I was interested in their Behavioral Science Program.  His response was “I don’t look up addresses”.

I strongly disagree with the Warden’s response that implies this issue is not release planning.  Mr. Commissioner, this issue is absolutely release planning.  It falls within the scope of my future release.  In fact I am the only one concerned with my future.  Theres [sic] not one employee that has helped me in the Department of “Corrections” I have been met with roadblocks every corner I turn.  When I am released its time for me to add integrity to society, not take it away like I have in the past.  Please advise Warden Barnhart that we need to progress, not regress.

I’m further perplexed by the Warden’s response to Sergeant Ross’s unprofessional behavior.  I will refer to the Warden’s response.  “I am satisfied that Mr. Worcester has addressed your concerns and provided you with a sufficient explanation”.

Mr. Worcester has never addressed my concerns, nor has he explained Segeant [sic] Ross’s unprofessional behavior.  In fact, he informed me if I did file a grievance for the way Sergeant Ross treats me, the warden would not do anything with it.

While meeting both Sergeant Ross and Mr. Worcester they intimidated, disrespected, mocked, and belittled me.  The meeting abruptly ended by the sergeant disrespecting me while Mr. Worcester inappropriately rejecting me from his office.  However, if Mr. Worcester has an explanation as to why the sergeant uses these degrading tactics due to a question in regards to a missing clothes slip, please have him inform me of it.

I give you prior notice that sergeant Ross is a dangerous man.  On 07-06-2011 I witnessed him approach Prisoner [name omitted] who was drinking a hot cup of coffee.  The sergeant hits the bottom of the cup it spills all over himself and the prisoner; accusing the prisoner of spilling the coffee on him!  Prisoner [name omitted] is tackled by five c/o’s, cuffed and excorted [sic] to SMU where he is locked down 24 hours a day for well over a week now!  The segeant [sic] is so incognito about this deception he must have pulled it off hundreds of times before.

Sergeant Ross’s mantality [sic] is distributed among the other staff.  They deem it necessary to provoke prisoners into violating the policies solely to intrap [sic] them for desuplinve [sic], and oppression reason.

The latest example of this unnecessary behavior involves office Carl.  This state employee believes it is his personal duty to instill his own warped sense of Justice into prisoners.  He continuously harasses them for no reason and he makes every simple matter differcult [sic].

On 07-05-2011 the officer generated a very dangerous situation that led to many prisoners being punished for no reason.  He provoked a mentally unstable prisoner to the point of physical violence.  Officer Carl was struck many times and the security of the pod was jeopardized.

This tragic incident was due to a prisoner and a officer that did not pocess [sic] the adequate skills to effectively communicate in strenuous situations.  However, the criteria of a prisoner’s behavior is held to a far less standard then the correctional officer’s.  it is expected that a prisoner does not necessarily have the skills to communicate constructively while faced with controversy.  Therefore, it is at the most imporance [sic] to have the correctional officer equipped with the basic deescalattion [sic] abilities while dealing with a diverse population of prisoners.

In this situation the officer nagates [sic] the sole purpose in having him employed at the Maine State Prison.  Instead of securing the pod, he insecures [sic] it.  He induces the learned and supported harassment for Sergeant Ross on to a prisoner that was not causing troble [sic].  The prisoner, not familiar with these tackics [sic] fall into the trap.  This time the trap goes to far, which is very said for the humanity of the prisoner that will likely serve many more years in prison due to this incident.

Mr. Commissioner the prison staff is the problem, not the solution.  The Warden’s letter that is enclosed proves that she not only condones this misconduct, but she also defends and supports it.  Her leadership has contributed to the consensus of the staff regarding their mantality [sic], they deem it necessary to find ways not to help prisoner, rather then [sic] finding ways to help them.  This distorted reasoning is contrary to the Department of Correction’s mission.  IT produces a prisoner that is worse off when released, then when arrived.  The end result of the prisoner is passed on to the society where statistics prove that revictimization [sic] is prominent and recidivism is eminent.  The viscous cycle recirculates…

Please remember that these prisoners are “people” that are unaware of their true protential [sic].  They are born good and still are.  Some are born with mental defects; and many are subjected to the elements of lifes [sic] complications that have effected their cognition that results in poor decision making.  There are many different factors that lead to this mental distortion that may include poor guidance, substance abuse or traumatized veterans that are full of all kinds of distortions.

Mr. Commissioner today is the day for positive change.  With the trobles [sic] in todays world the tax payer can not [sic] afford 60,000 per prisoner, per year for staff that are ineffective.  For the sake of humanity please set a new standard for the Department of Corrections.  Build a new foundation of inspiration and encouragement that will lift the prisoner up and out of the oppresion [sic].  Instil [sic] this positive mantality [sic] into yoru staff and watch the prisoners become prosperous.  New oppertunities [sic] will open to all parties including society!

[name omitted]

Maine State Prison

Letter from the Warden:

Dear [name omitted],

    

     Your letters addressed to Commissioner Ponte regarding conflict with Sergeant Ross and your assigned caseworker, Mr. Dyer were referred to this office for response.

 

     It is my understanding that Mr. Worcester, Unit Manager for the Medium Custody Unit has discussed your complaints with you.  Mr. Worcester believes that your issue with Sergeant Ross was addressed and that there is no current issue or conflict with Sergeant Ross.  It appears that your primary issue is a clam that Mr. Dyer does not adequately provide professional assistance to you.  It is not Mr. Dyer’s responsibility to assist you in the preparation of [details omitted].  Mr. Dyer may direct you to appropriate authorities or organizations that may be able to assist you with the preparation of your [details omitted].  Caseworkers may permit a prisoner to utilize [details omitted] for legitimate reasons relating to personal emergencies or release plans but not as a convenience to complete personal responsibilities.  I am satisfied that Mr. Worcester has addressed your concerns and provided you with sufficient explanation.

   

     I trust this response answers your concerns

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Patricia Barnhart

Warden

MSP Inmates Silenced: Grievance Forms Seized by Guards

June 27, 2011

 

Dear Sophie,

Its [sic] so good to see another Freedom Fighter willing to expose these corrupt state official.  [Sentence omitted by Sophie for security reasons]  I’ve a slew of previous & current documents to keep these prisoncrats in check.

We have a Maine Prisoners Advocacy (group) at [contact info available online], who are as worthy supporters exposing modern day slavery & warehousing practices on inmates in Maine.

This place easily makes over ¼ million in telephone profits off telephone revenues each year.  Then swiftly claims $160,000 is spent on maintence [sic] cost.  Talk about committing fraud within a state facility.

There is a ‘Board of Visitors’ our governors do seldom appoints to this useless committee.  By the time these visitors talk with anyone, its [sic] usually a handful of inmates too scared to speak against these guards, out of fear of retaliation.  Can you say, “Stockholm syndrome!”

Recently all blank grievance forms were seized in every pod.  Now we’re gotta go to Sergeants Office and be badgered for reason why you need a blank form.  There is no written documentation (Commissioner’s Directive and/or memo) that emphasizes this bias penal practice.

Maine Dept. of Corrections seriously needs transparency to solve ongoing struggles inmates are suffering.

Last month, a parole bill was diabolically defeated in our legislation.  Sole enemy that shined their corrupt swords to win this defeat were Dept. of Corrections instigators.  Let’s not forget a whole school bus of youngsters preaching to not let any predators/molesters back into the streets.

Over #30 years these prisoncrats have profited from this economical lock-them-up and throw away the key mentality.  In 1980, Maine had four (4) pre-release centers: So. Windham, Bangor, Pharos House (Ptld.) and in Hallowell.  Now we have only two and a half.  Belfast, Hallowell and Boldnc Unit in Warren, which allows only a limited # of inmates.

We’ve a long bumpy road ahead of us to push Maine’s penal system into the forefront.  Transparency should be our number #1 agenda to motivate our engines towards excellence.  A group of people appointed to answer to one person.  The governor and his cost efficient budget cuts.  Can anyone foresee taxpaying dollars we’d safe on a retroactive non-violent offenders parole bill.

 

Seeking My Freedom,

 

Kevin

MSP

A Brief Hello, Intimidation 101, and a Request.

June 21st

Hello Comrade

First off, I hope this note finds you well and good.  Personally and with the struggle.  By now you should most certainly have received the communications I intended for you to have.  Please let me know the status of that.

I’ve really gotten ahead of myself.  Thank you very much for your letter which I received this very evening.  So your letter did reach me.

Well as today is June 21, I imagine you have posted my info on your blog.  I am interested in knowing how your viewers perceived it.

Memo to Sophie:  Print what you may, I fear neither these inmates or prison officials.

That brings me back to this.  The “majority” of guys here live in perpetual fear of their jailers.  I’m not joking.  The prison officials here outright dog these guys!  And the last thing they will do is speak up for themselves.  I don’t know, the population here is roughly 800 prisoner’s.  Out of that number I don’t think there is 100 guys who would be willing to write to you and the myriad atrocities they have experienced and do experience.  Hell I can’t think of more than a few would muster up the courage.  Between ***, ***, and myself, we have spoke [sic] to innumeral [sic] guys about your being a voice for us castaways.  I’ll let you be the judge of those interested in at least “attempting” to get some accountability from the corrupt prison officials here.  How many correspondents have you had from here?  In a nutshell, that number is representative of those interested enough to want to alter their course.  I’m sure the respond number is sad, yet, it’s true.

Myself, it doesn’t matter my location.  I’m a freedom fighter and love digging myself and other’s [sic] downtrodden out of the trenches.  I’m cognizant that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Need I say more!?

Relative to the lawsuit, the defendant prison officials must file an Answer by July 6, 2011.  Without question I will keep you updated.

Sophie, I love to write letter’s [sic] and receive mail.

Interpretation: I would certainly not mind a pen-pal.  Just keep me in mind in case you hear of someone out there expressing a similar thought.  And thank you very much.  I just wanted to share that little bit with you.

Please take great care and be good with the struggle as the struggle will be good to you.

Currently I believe that it is better to starve and see no sun, than ignored.

In Struggle,

Donald

MSP

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/

Excerpt from a Complaint an Inmate at MSP is Working On

Prison personnel were advised several times by inmate H and his cellmate R that an ongoing conflict between them could not be resolved and the situation was becoming more intensified by the minute.

Officer G attempts to resolve the conflict by informing Sgt. R of the hazardous situation that is progressing quickly.  Sgt. R decides to willfully fail at his duty to protect these inmates by not separating them.  Instead he makes the choice to promote violence as he allows officer G to lock them in a 8-12 [sic] cell together, knowing bodily harm was inevitable.  In esense [sic] R and G sets the inmates up in a dangerous situation with no excape [sic].  R and G refuses to enact prison protocol that calls for separation of inmates if danger exist between them.

Its documented that these inmates made several attempts to end this conflict by asking for staff intervention.  They ask staff for protection and they [the staff] do the opposite.  They [the staff] directly incourage [sic] violence by locking them in a cell together.

The inmates were overwhelmed with stress, anxiety combined with fear knowing that a future violent altercation was inevitable.  When they were locked in the cell together fight or flight instinct was prominent.  Flight was deprived by prison staff and there was only one option left.

H was left with no choice but to commit a simple assult [sic] purposely in the presence of prison staff knowing he then would be separated from his cellmate and it would end any further altercations and future violence.  Its ovious [sic] prison staff influenced this violence and then discriminated against H for only filing a report against him, but not R that was just as much involved with the altercation.  Then blames only H for not turning on the light during count when R was as much at fault.

This situation could have been resolved at the beginning.  Its because of staff’s incompantcy [sic] that its gone this far.  I ask you now to drop any futher [sic] actions and put a final end to this unreasonable disciplinary report.

–Henry