by Mary Ratcliff
Earlier, she had written: “I hope that Marritte gets health care. What they are doing there is nothing short of torture.” With medical abuse and neglect making headlines in California, neighboring Nevada seems to be competing for the “prize” of “Worst U.S. Prison Medical System.”
Nevada prisoner, organizer and teacher Marritte Funches, who for many years has used the Bay View newspaper to educate and encourage other prisoners, is in danger of dying of kidney failure due to medical abuse and neglect that appears to be deliberate and retaliatory. According to the ACLU Prison Project, health care in Nevada prisons is as bad as it gets nationwide. It’s so bad, Marritte says, that Nevada prisoners have “killed themselves and elected to accept lethal injection rather than continue to suffer the horrendous medical care.”
The Nevada activist, Natalie Smith Parra, wrote a little about her family’s experience: “My daughter’s dad has horrible health issues. He has a lawsuit in federal court, but even with that, things are deteriorating. I would love to somehow draw massive attention to the abuses going on in that system. It is just so bad. …
“My daughter had 200 postcards signed at CR10 (the large September conference in Oakland marking the 10th anniversary of Critical Resistance, a leader in the prison abolition movement) and sent them all to (Nevada Director of Prisons Howard) Skolnik, demanding that they give her father his PRESCRIBED walker. They haven’t given it to him. It just goes on and on. It really puts a whole new spin on ‘crime.’”
Four days after Natalie sent that email, Marritte wrote this letter to the Bay View:
“Today at approximately 3:20 p.m. the pigs viciously assaulted a fellow convict, Rickey Egberto, #20632, who was defenseless, as he was fully restrained in handcuffs and shackles when they attacked him. This is the same Indian brother whose family contacted you on my behalf.
“I found out after speaking with you last that I obviously look worse than I thought. Mr. Egberto had expressed his concerns for me to his family because I look like I’m on my last legs.
“OK, so I witnessed everything that went down, but I can’t detail it here. I’m writing because they beat him pretty bad. This is an old man in his mid-50s. And the last thing I heard as they were taking him away was him yelling that he couldn’t breathe and that his leg had been broken.
“I’m hoping you have his family’s contact info. They need to call the prison and come out here immediately.
“Please tell them that I am sorry I wasn’t able to get those pigs – four or five of them – off him. I’m locked in my cell and there was nothing I could do but yell and make sure they knew I was watching.
“Tell them I said there will be retribution for the righteous. The pigs will not get away with this.
“I don’t know if Mr. Egberto is OK or not. No one will tell me shit. The pigs took his phone privileges, and they’re tearing up all of his property now.
Natalie wrote when I relayed Marritte’s letter to her by email: “Yes, they definitely have it in for Rickey. He has been a fighter his whole life and he will never give up. I suppose that is the way he will die one day, and in his opinion, there are worse ways to go.”
What you can do right now
If you’ve heard enough already to want to take action, both Corrections Director Howard Skolnik and Medical Director Dr. Bruce Bannister can be reached at the Nevada Department of Corrections, P.O. Box 7011, Carson City, NV 89702, (775) 887-3216, fax (775) 887-3253. Please call or write them today. They have responded before to pressure to do the right thing, and they will again.
Contact Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons at 101 North Carson St., Carson City, NV 89701, (775) 684-5670, fax (775) 684-7198, too. Natalie advises us to contact the governor as well as prison officials, noting, “Skolnik doesn’t like it when anyone goes over his head.” She adds, “I think the more transparent these gulags become, the better it is for the inmates.”
Marritte visits the doctor
Two weeks later, he and the doctor finally met. “But the whole situation was not ideal, to say the least,” Marritte notes. “In fact, I am somewhat suspicious, but I will withhold judgment until I see what happens next.
“The day started when I was awakened by a tidal wave of raw sewage water coming under my door. Myself and several others fought this foul smelling wave of toxic waste for several hours before the guards got someone out to fix the problem.
“The goon squad showed up with no notice to take me to the doctor. I was then strip searched and chained head to toe – chains on my ankles, wrists and around my waist, with a black box covering the handcuffs. As we were leaving, the sewage pipes burst and another wave of raw sewage was headed towards my cell.
“I was taken outside and placed into a van. Two armed guards rode with me in the van while two more followed in a chase car behind us. They took me to Regional Medical Facility, located inside of another prison about a quarter mile from this one, called Northern Nevada Correctional Center.
“Once inside RMF, we were directed to a tiny examination room, which was filthy. … The garbage was overflowing with old puss- and blood-stained bandages etc. We were the first to use the room that day, so this filth had been there who knows how long. We waited there one and a half hours, me sitting on the examination chair and four goons surrounding me.
“When the doctor came, he immediately stated he had to leave for an emergency, so we had to hurry. I was unable to even go over all of my symptoms. So the doctor, whose name is Nixon … takes about one and a half minutes to do the examination. He tells me he didn’t see any obstructions, but there was something wrong with my bladder. …
“I asked on the way out, as they were rushing me out of there, ‘Can this cause kidney pain?’ The doctor said, ‘No,’ which automatically rang a bell in my head that he’s only looking at the symptom, not the cause. I told him I had severe kidney pain, so he ordered a medication for my bladder. …
“My concern is that Dr. Nixon has not set up a follow-up exam and has not fully grasped the problem. Whatever he found wrong with my bladder is only a symptom, not the cause.”
“Albeit I saw the kidney doctor under some pretty barbaric circumstances, he did find something wrong and ordered medications along with further testing,” Marritte wrote Nov. 1, “but once back here at NSP, I’ve been dealing with a bunch of drama over the medical staff attempting to give me different meds than what Dr. Nixon prescribed.
“For example, he ordered meds for my pain, but these people tried to give me a psychotropic instead. This is what they do with everyone. Back pain, can’t sleep, scrape your knee – they pass out psych drugs, especially Elevil, like candy. But even in small doses, psychotropic drugs can alter a person’s brain chemistry.
“One of the med staff here, Nurse Janice, tried to threaten and intimidate me into taking the drug. I demanded to speak to the doctor. Instead I was given some extra strength Tylenol. I also found out the med staff here intercepted the letter I wrote to Dr. Nixon detailing the symptoms I’ve been suffering from.
“Then just this afternoon this same Nurse Janice tried to poison me. When she brought my meds, I noticed something wasn’t right. Just as I was about to take the pill she gave me, I looked at it and it was not the same pill I’d been taking. Turns out it was a very powerful psych drug that would’ve left me a vegetable for the next few days. And when I caught it, the nurse just gave me an evil grin. The COs (correctional officers) tried to laugh it off. …
“I’ve kept my cool thus far, but I don’t see this turning out well. I need a lawyer. This type of madness can’t keep going on. A statement has to be made.
“These people have got to know someone is watching, and they will not be allowed to continue killing people, torturing and denying medical care etc. I am only here now under threat and (because of their) fear of exposure. And they’re still playing games with my life.”
Young people have decided there will be a new legacy
On Nov. 5, the day after the election, Marritte wrote: “I’m wondering what Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Young Emmett Till, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Sundiata Acoli, Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Afeni Shakur, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur – Assata Shakur, man, maybe we can bring our sista back home now and get some pardons for some of these other brothas and sistas – I’m wondering what they all must be thinking.
“I gotta confess I’m writing this to you now with a great deal of emotion. I was born in 1971, part of the generation thrown into the lurch as our leaders were murdered, bought off and buried inside these prisons across the country, when the Civil Rights Era was in its death throes. …
“Today I am humbled. Young people have decided there will be a new legacy, and I am hopeful. I sit here an innocent man imprisoned by a corrupt judicial system and slated to die in this cold cell.
“But I am hopeful for my 19-year-old daughter, who voted for the first time, for the future and the promise of America. And I can continue my work educating and organizing programs for the young people here in these prisons, with that hope firm in my heart.
“And now we – all of you out there, friends and family of us in these dungeons – we gotta get to work. Obama will now be choosing a new attorney general and possibly two or three Supreme Court judges. We’ve gotta make sure he makes these decisions with us in mind.
“We’ve gotta make sure he appoints a delegation to address the inherent flaws and discrepancies in our judicial and prison system. We know there isn’t going to be much money from the government for the things we want, but it will not cost a dime to get rid of these directors of prisons and medical directors who enable the current expansionist warehouse mentality of our prisons.”
My father was gunned down by the SFPD
“Many of us in these pens don’t have any family or friends on the outside to encourage or keep them thinking positive,” Marritte writes. “The few that I had are all either dead, strung out or caged in a cell the same as me.
“My father was gunned down by the SFPD before I could even talk to tell him how much I loved him. Maybe that’s why I never did like pork, and my mother always told me I never could stand a kkkop.
“She passed away after my first years in prison. It was not until the Bay View came along that I felt there was someone out there who cared about us in these pens, about me. Its insightful words challenging me to be more active in the struggle, the Bay View helped me to see, even though I had no working concept of politics before coming to prison, indeed I am a political prisoner.
“When I first came to prison my heart was filled with anger and confusion, as it was obviously my race, not the evidence that was the determining factor in my wrongful conviction: falsely accused by a white man who was actually the original suspect, prosecuted by a white man who freely violated the law to manufacture false evidence against me, judged by a white man who actually wore a gold hangman’s noose on a chain around his neck, and convicted by an all-white jury. Even the gallery was filled with an all-white audience. The public pretender/ defender who dumped me was a white man too.
“Born and raised in San Francisco, I never knew or thought much about racism. But that whole experience gave me a sense of what it must’ve been like to be the star of one of those good ol’ boy picnics Down South back in the ‘40s and ‘50s. …
“When I first came to the pen, I only knew my life had been taken away for something I didn’t do. And just as the kkkops had taken my father from me, they were now taking me from my baby daughter.
“I was surrounded by sadists employed by the state and allowed to abuse their positions with impunity. And they took pride and pleasure in making my life as miserable as they could. Really it was just an extension of my county jail experience, where I was constantly harassed, beaten and tortured by being strapped naked to a board for eight to 12 hours at a time. They called it behavior modification, my punishment for fighting back when they’d rush into my cell eight people deep to beat me.
“And being raised in the streets of San Francisco, I was taught to never bite my tongue or run from adversity. So I stood alone and never asked for help to fight my battles.”
Nevada is a very sick system
“I will not stop teaching these young brothas the truth,” Marritte writes, “who their true teachers and s/heroes are that shed blood and died for us. I will never stop encouraging them to educate and organize themselves to be strong leaders and protectors of their communities.
“These are the reasons the prisoncrats are willing to let me die rather than give me the medical care I need. They know you can’t see the dark circles under my eyes or how much pain I’m in every day. So they use my will to live and unwillingness to show weakness as a weapon against me. ‘He’s not dead or bleeding, he still looks strong, (so) he must be OK.’ They know the general public will not take my word over theirs.”
According to Natalie: “Nevada is a very sick system, even sicker than most, from what I’ve seen. I would love to organize a protest in Las Vegas, one that upsets the tourist industry, by exposing people to the truth of what is going on there, including telling people about Patrick Cavanaugh, a diabetic who was left to rot to death from diabetic gangrene (oh, but he didn’t want any medication) and other examples of extreme medical abuse. The tourist industry seems to be the only thing that state cares about.”
Marritte needs a lawyer!
Before Marritte rots to death, please help find him a lawyer. “I don’t necessarily need a lawyer licensed in Nevada,” he writes. “This will likely be a federal suit, meaning any attorney skilled in civil law will be able to take the case. And at the very least we can find a good attorney who will do the work for me to file in my name as a pro per litigant. So they’d do the work and I’d just file the papers. I am counting on you to help me find someone.”
If you can help, please write right away to Marritte Funches, #37050, P.O. Box 607, Carson City NV 89702. Or you can contact the Bay View: Call (415) 671-0789, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write SF Bay View, 4917 Third St., San Francisco CA 94124. Recommendations from other prisoners or their loved ones are most welcome.
Email Bay View editor Mary Ratcliff at email@example.com.