Maine State Prison “Pilot Programs” Equal Loss of Inmate Rights

Dear Sophie;
My name is [name & number omitted], Maine State Prisoner. You were an advocate for us, until the Prison tried to sever ties, because the prison did not want the public to be addressed about what goes on behind the closed doors of the Maine State Prison. As I write the prison is putting the finishing touches on what they call “Pilot Programs” forcing prisoner to sign away privilages [sic] and rights. Some of the forceful “impliments” [sic] are just down right cruel. I am hoping that you are still interested to help prisoners. If so please write to [name, relationship, and address omitted]. [omitted] will forward your letter directly to me. There are (2) conditions
A) You must sign your letter Sincerely Yours or do not sign at all
B) My lawyer advised, that any inmate that writes to you add “I forfeit all rights to this letter, to the person who is in possession, to do with as they see fit”

After the first couple of letters I believe it would be easier to get document to you via the internet, but either way, using (B) takes away their reprocussion [sic] powers against the inmate.

I appreciate your time and patience to read this letter,
[name omitted]


Still Held at MCC and Fearing Retaliation from Staff Over Inquiries

Dear Mrs. Sophie Inchains 1/25/2012

I have written you already once not too long ago and I am writing once again so that I can explain how I feel about my current situation, and in hopes that you can better help me if possible. Because now some new things have come up. But, please allow me to explain that it is in fact a part of what I had written to you about a week ago.

They’re still playing games with me, im [sic] still getting the “run around”, but now they’re saying that the write up that I supposably [sic] kicked out of CCF for has been thrown out. However, I still have seg. time to do on a previous write up that is not true. I only had one other write up that I had received and was found guilty at CCF, but was already taken care. I had received a class A and a class B, they had dropped it and I received a class C write up instead. My punishment consisted of 5 days room restriction at CFF and was completed accordingly with no loss good time.

At CFF my D-board officer was sgt. Robberts, I had asked MCC to call him and check with further information so this matter can be resolved. I have written to everyone here that I could possibly think of to also help me get this matter resolved. But, no one has any helpful information and im [sic] still helplessly clueless as to what’s gonna happen to me. However, MCC did tell me that I am still minimum, (thank god for that much).

But, I do fear that they will try and write me up, for administrative burdon [sic] or failure to adjust for making “waves”. That would’nt [sic] be right or fair on my behalf. That’s why im [sic] writing today explaining my current situation in hopes that you may be able to help me. From what I have heard you’re the only one that can help me at this point.

I apologize for any inconvenience and I appreciate your time. Take care and I hope to hear from you soon.

Sincerely & Respectively

[letter unsigned]

Systemic Silencing: Maine State Prison Inmates in Danger for Publishing on Voices

14 September 2011


Dear Blog Readers,


On September 2, 2011 Commissioner Joseph Ponte issued a memo stating that Maine State Prison (MSP) will no longer allow inmates to send mail or pictures to people that post them to “Facebook and other social networking sites”.  The commissioner went on to say:


          “Any prisoner who is already engaged in this activity is to notify the person(s) who did any posting to remove them immediately.  Any prisoner who is discovered to have engaged in this activity after this date or whose prior posting(s) remain on Facebook or other social networking site [sic] two (2) weeks from this date will be subject to disciplinary action”.  [emphasis mine]


Ponte’s desire to silence inmates is so intense , he is threatening them with “disciplinary action”.  The Commissioner’s behavior is exactly the reason why Voices from the Cracks is necessary to the inmates and the community at large.  If the Maine Department of Corrections (MDOC) has nothing to hide, why are they in such a hurry to silence inmates?  If Ponte believe the MDOC is wholly innocent of: murder, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, excessive use of solitary confinement, hundreds of instances of gross misconduct, and systemic abuses of power– than why is he threatening “discipline” for any and all who write to people who post online?  Moreover, many of the pieces that are submitted to Voices consist of: poetry, short stories, memoir, and political musings, which enrich the community while giving inmates a positive create outlet and a chance to make meaningful contributions to society.  All of which promote successful reentry and reduced recidivism.  Isn’t that suppose to be the goal?


Furthermore, Commissioner Joseph Ponte does not give a definition, outside of his Facebook reference, as to what he feels “other social networking” is.  However, Warden Patricia Barnhart made it clear in her personal letter to me that the she and Ponte believe Voices from the Cracks qualifies as “other social networking”.  After accusing my colleague of being Sophie Inchains, Barnhart says, “Sophie Inchains is not a verifiable name and we are asking you to use your proper first and last birth name or legal name on all correspondence with prisoners”.  Using a pseudonym in a field that is wrought with various kinds of danger and retaliation from prison officials is a common practice.  Regardless, Sophie Inchains is a “verifiable” person.  She has a post office box, three email accounts, a Facebook, a Twitter, and a Blog.  For months I, Sophie Inchains, have been communicating with inmates at MSP and it was not until recently that I became UN-“verifiable”.  In fact, I have even spoken to the commissioners office and the MSP mailroom.  Continuing with her rally against me, Barnhart went on to say:


     “Prisoners will not be permitted to send/receive correspondence to/from Sophie Inchains.  Prisoners are not permitted to provide photos and information to persons outside the facility to be uploaded to Facebook and other social networking sites.  I have attached a copy of the memorandum issued by MDOC Commissioner Joseph Ponte regarding this issue for your review”.


Clearly, Barnhart and Ponte are collaborating to silence and punish inmates.  Barnhart’s letter says inmates “will not be permitted to send/receive correspondence”, however, Ponte’s memo says prisoner need to “notify the person” that is posting to “other social networking” sites within “two weeks from this [September 2] date”.  How are inmates going to “notify” anyone if their mail is confiscated?  Moreover, Ponte’s memo is dated for September 2 but Barnhart’s letter was not postmarked until September 12.  I believe Ponte and Barnhart strategically timed the staggering of the memo and letter in order to illegally hold all incoming/outgoing mail to/from Sophie Inchains for at least ten days.  Although, if you take into consideration the length of time since my last MSP letter, I am guessing that MSP has been illegally holding mail for up to twenty days.


Commissioner Ponte and Warden Barnhart I am asking that you research the definition of a Blog [weB-LOG] and reconsider the position you are taking by calling it “other social networking”.  There are thousands of prisoner sites, which are run by: advocates, family members, lawyers, human rights activists, and even inmates themselves in facilities where the officials are not terrified that their abuse will leak to the media.  It’s funny how when prison officials have nothing to hide, inmates are treated like the humans they are.


Furthermore, incarcerated men at MSP do not send ANYTHING to be published on Facebook or “other social networking” sites.  The internet is a vast and mysterious thing, which allows people to post LINKS, on Facebook, or other pages.  A link on Facebook does not denote inmates sending materials for posting to Facebook, it simply means that someone liked what they read and shared it with their own friends via a link on Facebook.  I would also like to point out that no original work from an MSP inmate has ever been published to Facebook. Links are a part of everyday internet life, holding an inmate accountable for a process they have no control over is wholly criminal.  If an inmate is published in “The New England Journal of Medicine Online”, and someone posts a link to that on their Facebook page, are you going to punish the inmate?


In closing, Commissioner Ponte and Warden Barnhart’s uses of systemic silencing are so blatant they would be comical, if not for the over 800 men who are at the mercy of vindictive guards, the MDOC, and the Prison Industrial Complex as a whole.  Since MSP has proven repeatedly that inmates will be beaten death, psychologically abused, or keep them in solitary until they hang themselves temporary action must be taken to assure prisoners safety.  Therefore, in an attempt protect all the Voices I care so deeply about, all blogs posting from MSP prison inmates are suspended until further notice.


But rest assured readers…there will be a further notice.




Sophie Inchains

Verified Prison Advocate

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





Patricia Barnhart


Super Max: A Vivid Account of Solitary in New England


By Pornchai Moontri

The time I spent in a New England state prison’s Super Max unit is not easy to write about.  It changed me more than I care to acknowledge or talk about.  I spent three-and-one-half years in one stretch in Super Max.  Of thirteen years in that prison system, more than half of it was spent in Super Max.

The first time I was sent to Super Max was kind of scary.  I was sent there because I was accused by “confidential inmate informants” of planning to make a homemade bomb to try to blow up the prison.  I was nineteen years old, and had been in prison only four months when I was sent to Super Max.

When I first saw the place, it looked really tough.  It had rows and rows of razor wire around its perimeter, cameras at every turn, and three check points [sic] before you even get to the entrance.  As I was getting out of the prison van at

Super Max, I was met by six “SERT Team” guys in full riot gear.  They told me what they expected of me: no quick movements; keep my head up and my eyes forward; no speaking at all unless I was asked a question.  I was told that if I did not obey these rules perfectly upon command, as they put it, I would be dumped on my ass!  They really knew how to make a guy feel welcomed.

Once inside, when I first stepped onto the pod, it was the smell that I noticed first.  The smell of urine and fecal matter was so overwhelming, I thought I might get sick.  I was taken to a cell, and locked in.  My very first thought was that I didn’t want to touch anything.  It was filthy.  Then I knew that I would have to clean the place up before I could possibly live there, but I have nothing to clean with – no cleaning supplies at all.  Before I could ask the corrections officer (c/o) for something to clean with, the guy in the cell next to me told me that it would be easier to just set off the fire sprinkler system to douse the cell.  About ten minutes after the deluge began, the SERT Team was at my cell door to extract me from it.

I wrestled with four of them for a few minutes before they got me to the floor, and beat me like a dog.  My arm was so twisted behind my back, I thought it would break.  With a booted foot pressing my bare head to the concrete floor and another on my neck, my leg bent so far backward that my foot pressed against my butt, I was powerless.

Then I was placed in the black chair, chained and cuffed, and unable to move at all.  After five hours in the black Chair, I was asked if I was calm now, and ready to be

taken back to my cell.  I said something sarcastic and angry, and just spend longer in the chair.  Unfortunately for me, that was not my last time in the black chair.  I was brought back to it many times – usually for three or four hours at a stretch.  I just didn’t seem to learn my lesson.

Finally, I was brought back to my cell, cleaned by the sprinkler system just as my neighbor said it would be.  It got cleaned the hard way!  That was my first day in Super Max.

The Super Max cell had nothing in it but a stainless steel toilet, a bunk, and a stainless steel table bolted to the wall.  The window in the cell door was about twelve by sixteen inches.  Any time I had to be moved or let out of the cell, I was placed in four-point restraints, hands and feet, and then stripped to be searched after every movement.

Every day there was the same monotony: breakfast at 0530 followed by forty-five minutes alone in the rec pen.  That was like a big dog cage.  I could take exactly eleven steps inside it and then back again.  It was about five feet wide and eight feet long with chain link on all sides and above.  It really was a cage.  I could have a fifteen-minute shower five times a week, and one fifteen-minute telephone call per week.  There was no use of a TV or radio.

Lunch was always at 11:30 and dinner at 4:30.  Four times a day guards would come to count me at the same time every day.  I would have to stand up or sit on the concrete bunk.  I was allowed to look at three books per week.  I would take any books that were big so they would last a long time.  I read the Bible cover to cover twice.  I read Stephen King books because they were big.  ADD STORYI also read Shogun and any other large novel I could get.  At O7OO every day, someone would come by with a tube of toothpaste, put a dab on my finger, and I would “brush” with that.

Super Max was so depressing and so solitary that prisoners would try to cut themselves deeply or hang themselves just to get out of there.  Since this Super Max prison opened in 1992, there have been three inmate deaths there by suicide (one was a suspected homicide), and hundreds of prisoners were seriously injured.  One prisoner was extracted from his cell so he could not harm himself, and then he died from the injuries he sustained while being extracted.

The longer a prisoner stayed in Super Max, the more anti-social he became.  Inmates would do anything to try to break up their day and entertain themselves.  Some played with their own urine and feces, and others used those as weapons, throwing them at the guards after calling their names to get their attention.  Some of the more manipulative would talk other prisoners into acting up.  I know today that we acted like animals because we were treated like animals.

I survived Super Max by doing as many as 1,500 push-ups a day, and venting as much of my anger, frustration, and energy as possible into physical fitness.  In a way, this also worked against me.  The more physically strong I became, the more I was treated like a dangerous animal.  I knew that self-discipline was my only way to stay sane, so I lived a strict regimen of exercise for many years.

When I finally left Super Max for good, I had a lot of emotional problems.  I was angry, depressed, often hostile, and anti-social.  Then I was transferred to an adjacent state’s prison system where I had a new beginning.  I found a lot of help here, and all the baggage of those long hard years left me in time.  I never want to go back.  I am 38 years old now, and haven’t seen freedom for almost 20 years.  However, I have learned that freedom begins on the inside, not the inside of a prison but the inside of my own soul.  It is there that I am free.

Rehab Unit is Really Solitary Confinement: Inmates Suffering While Public Kept Ignorant

Dear Sophie,                                                   7-15-11

I don’t know if you know where you wrote to or not.  This is a condemned building, part of M.C.C., in a closed unit known as the C.R.A.. To anyone on the outside this is a minimum-security rehab.  The clients can rejoin the population of the prison whenever they choose.

In reality, the C.R.A., Correctional Recovery Academy, is a forced maximum-security closed-unit prison-rehab.  All of us were forced into coming here.  Some were yanked from minimum-securities or even community-status facilities where they had visits with their families and were saving up thousands of dollars for when they get out.  Here they get nothing.  We can’t leave.  We’ll lose all earned goodtime and then to seg. for 30days.  We’ll also be sanctioned for a year.  Cannot gain back minimum or have a paying job.  We’re told when we first come in that we’ll get a monthly stipend of $47.50.  Enough for hygeine [sic] and coffee.  After a couple of months that was shut off.  Everything here is bullshit and a lit.  I’ve worked my ass off for 5.5-months not and they won’t even allow me to move ahead in the program in the simplest way.  Won’t even give me a reason why.  I was forced in here after I fought with the bitch in charge.  Penny Bailey.  I beat her at one game and it made her mad.  She tried to force me to work in the kitchen and an inch of water on tile floors, I’m supposed to be wearing my titanium knee-brace.  I only have one ligament on one knee, so I had the brace made before I had come in.  I had to fight for one-year before they allowed me to have it mailed in.  in all of that time I was here for two-months climbing up + down flights of stairs from 6:00am to 8:00pm every day, by not having the brace both the maliseus [sic] and the A.C.L. of the other knee ripped itself.  I desperately want to sue medical, D.O.C., the Spectrum Medical Group, and the jerk that was just fired Ken Topal, I will too.  At the moment I need to find an attorney in a hurry willing to do some suing with me for a big chunk of the money.  I need to be medically removed from here.  I can have my sister sue them once I’m out, but I can’t wait 9-months.  My knee is trashed and killing me now, in 45-days I’m told they’re shutting off my meds.  I have no money myself to do anything these are guaranteed suits.  I need fast legal help.

I can write anything for you on this place.  A complete write-up of the conditions here, medical neglect, the tortures of this treatment program such as mine.  Carl [last name omitted] is another here who said he’ll write you too.  He has a staph infection that ate the skin off his legs.  Raw meat.  He was like that a couple of months.  They’ve got him on cipro’s [sic] not finally.  He says he’s getting better now…

I have no woman.  I seem to lose all of my pen-pals in warm weather.  I am dying here with nobody to write to!  I’ve written to women all over Maine but none come through with the letters at all.  I can’t stand a letter a month.  What the hell do you do the other 29-days?  These cells were designed for one man back in the 40’s.  I have a celly.  As do we all…

I’ll trade you.  I’ll write you whatever you want.  Anything about here, stories poetry, essays, whatever.  Fine me an attorney in the area.  Willing to work for a %.  Or a pen-pal and my mind and pen are yours.  Seriously.





Sometimes to fine the meaning

Of life one much simply stop

Searching and live it…