Editor’s note: Marritte Funches, known to other prisoners as Ikemba, whose story the Bay View has been following, has been on hunger strike since Dec. 11, seeking medical care and an attorney. He has received no medical care; a lawyer is interested in his case but as of Monday had not decided whether to take it. Word arrived Monday that Marritte is being transferred to a prison not served by the only doctor in Nevada available to treat him. Calls to Corrections Director Howard Skolnik at (775) 887-3216 and Gov. Jim Gibbons at (775) 684-5670 are urgently needed. This extraordinary organizer and teacher – as these letters from other prisoners attest – is in excruciating kidney pain and may not be able to cling to life much longer. Deaths in prison due to medical abuse and neglect are rampant all over the country, but the ACLU National Prison Project calls Nevada’s Ely State Prison, where Marritte did most of his organizing and Coyote is still held, the nation’s worst.
I am sincerely moved by Marritte’s cry for help – and when I say “cry,” I do not mean that in a degrading way whatsoever – because when I see true radicals, true revolutionaries, locked down in the hands of haters, seeking help and support and assistance from the general public, pleading for people to help them, pleading for their lives, not only does it tell me that they’re sincerely in need of dire help, it also tells me that somewhere, these COs are sitting back grinning, saying to themselves, “Yeah, we got his Black ass now.”
This is not the first time the State of Nevada has tried to kill Marritte Funches; they had him on trial a couple of years ago on a so-called capital punishment case, and in the spirit of resistance, with his back against the wall and nothing to lose, he fired his public defender and took it upon himself to study and learn the law, and he stood there in that courtroom like David standing up to Goliath and from his heart and with his brilliant intellect he spoke truth to power and fought for his life and all due to his radical spirit of resistance he was able to convince the jury to find him “not guilty!” He beat them. They tried to kill a true revolutionary, they tried to do him like George Jackson, and he beat them. So now they really want to do him in!
Yes, we are political prisoners, not because we read political books while we are in prison. It’s deeper than that. Our actions, activism and efforts are political by all means and, furthermore, anyone who truly understands that this entire American justice system is foul and corrupt from the ground up should be willing to view almost all prisoners as political prisoners anyway.
So, when I see someone like Maritte Funches calling out for help, or someone like Russell “Maroon” Shoatz calling out for help, because they aren’t receiving any proper medical care, pleading for their lives, it’s a sad sight to see because in my heart I know what they’re up against. I know and can prove that there is no true medical care in these prisons. The quality of life is real low in these death camps, where they have no problems locking up youths as young as 16 years old and by design they are knocking us off in here, because they know they can get away with it.
Just like J. Edgar Hoover knew he could get away with assassinating Fred Hampton and Mark Clark for their successful efforts in educating, politicizing and organizing the Black youth of Chicago. The times are different now in this Pepsi generation, but the situation is pretty much the same. The issues are the same, the struggles are the same, and by design, they are knocking us off in these prisons. And no, I’m not saying this as one of those dudes who has read way too many conspiracy books where I’m to the point where I think everything is a conspiracy but I’m writing this as someone who knows from experience, and I am here today to prove that these prison rats have indeed been trying to knock us off.
They are knocking us off in here, because they know they can get away with it.
We sincerely, honestly and truly need help from the outside or else we are forever doomed in these sunless cemeteries. We are poor, powerless, imprisoned people, locked up and oppressed by people who are rich and powerful. We are helpless people against the huge obstacles. We need all the love we can get.
In prison, we don’t live, we maintain. And that’s what people like Ikemba (Marritte Funches) and Maroon (Russell Shoatz) are trying to do; they’re not only trying to maintain their existence, but they are also trying to preserve the lives and sanity of others who have to struggle and suffer behind enemy lines. They are trying to preserve these young lives and young minds by actively seeking ways to educate, politicize and organize these youngsters, because people like Ikemba and people like Maroon know what’s happening and they know, recognize and understand what they’re up against.
And because they are actively trying to show others what they’re up against and the way to resist, ways to rise above it and overcome it, these pigs are actively seeking ways to do them in. And one of their most effective strategies has been to lock us down and intentionally neglect to give us any proper medical care. And like I said, I’m not just thinking out of the side of my neck; I am going to prove it, for the first time ever, with the help of the BayView. I’m going to expose the atrocities we are faced with in here!
Our physical health, as well as our mental health, is in constant jeopardy in these prisons all across America, and what makes it so cold is that we are at the mercy of our captors. We are at the mercy of people who have no mercy. We are at the mercy of people who hate us, fear us, despise us and who are always out to show us who’s boss. They don’t care about us, what we’re going through in life, what challenges we have to face when we get out of here. They don’t care if we get out of gangs or not, they don’t care if we overcome drug addiction, poverty or any of that. They aren’t here to rehabilitate us, they aren’t here to help us, they are not even allowed to help us, and they won’t help us.
In Assata Shakur’s poem, “Affirmation,” she wrote that she has been locked by the lawless, handcuffed by the haters and gagged by the greedy. What does that mean, locked by the lawless? The people who work for the state, the government, have the law on their side. They can break the law and get away with it, so in all reality, they are lawless.
Our physical health, as well as our mental health, is in constant jeopardy in these prisons all across America, and what makes it so cold is that we are at the mercy of our captors. We are at the mercy of people who have no mercy. We are at the mercy of people who hate us, fear us, despise us.
They can enforce the law, but they don’t have to abide by it. They feel as if the law does not apply to them. So you see, they got us behind enemy lines locked, handcuffed and gagged. Just like they bound and gagged Bobby Seale in an American courtroom. They blatantly abuse their power to keep us bound and gagged, just to show us who’s boss. That’s what we are up against.
I want to show my solidarity to Ikemba. I want to help save his life because his life is worth saving. He is my comrade, he is someone who has schooled me and reached out to me in real ways that have helped me get set on the path of activism and radicalism. I am Hispanic and he is Black, and he has crossed “racial lines” to reach out to me and even during times when there was conflict and turmoil between the Blacks and Hispanics in these Nevada prisons, we both were able to put solidarity above the bullshit and collaborate on real levels of truth and understanding.
I guarantee you Ikemba’s life is worth saving! You save this man’s life and you will save many lives, because this is a man, a warrior, a comrade who has the capability and desire to reach out to others, young prisoners, in real and meaningful ways. Ikemba truly has the spirit of George Jackson and that’s not a sight you see around here every day amongst all this daily degeneration.
So please help this man get a lawyer, help him get some real medical care, before these haters knock him off! This shit is real. We are dying up in here, getting buried alive up in here. Just imagine if you had kidney failure and you had no one to turn to for help, nowhere to go, no one who cared, no one to give you help. How would that make you feel?
Think about it: We are helpless in here while at the mercy of people who would gladly spit on our graves and there’s no reason we shouldn’t have the right to be treated like humans, with a little bit of dignity and respect. Health care is a basic necessity in life, just like food, shelter and water; it should be distributed to all people fairly and equally. The basic necessities in life should not come with a price tag. That just ain’t right.
So, if you’re reading this, this is your chance to do something right for humanity, this is your chance to do something good for a good man. Get involved, get on the phone, call people, talk to people, reach out, pool your resources, help this man get a lawyer so he can get a doctor to look at his kidneys, so he can get the treatment he deserves!
I want to expose the tragedies that take place here in Nevada’s prisons and I truly hope the Bay View will help me do it. I am sending a 13-page declaration that was written by a registered nurse, Lorraine Memory, who works here at Ely State Prison and who had the courage to stand up and speak out on behalf of another one of my comrades, Kevin Lisle.
This document will show you now the warden and the doctors here at ESP and in Nevada generally are trying to knock us off! I mean, this document is coming from someone who works here on the inside and who was willing to put her job on the line to save the lives of the inmates who reside here. Like I said, she wrote it in support of my comrade on death row, Kevin Lisle, who was basically left to be hung out and dried.
The doctor here at ESP – who was a gynecologist working at a men’s prison by the way – was eventually escorted off the ESP premises by the FBI and told that he was not allowed to practice medicine in the State of Nevada ever again. The FBI had him under investigation because he was on the internet trying to expedite the executions of some of the death row inmates here at ESP (Nevada’s maximum security prison) where he worked and was in charge of the care and wellbeing of these inmates.
Three inmates have died under his care, “by accident,” due to lack of medical attention. It’s hard to believe that it was an accident. This 13-page document puts it all out there for people to see how they are knocking us off in these prisons, and it exposes the racism, sadism and oppression that our keepers are capable of. This is what goes on in all prisons across this country!
I hope when people read this they will begin to understand things in a whole new light, and hopefully it will make people feel inclined to do something to help Ikemba with his grave and serious plight. His life is on the line and I hope this document will help people understand how serious this is. This document is meant to reveal the truth, because what we say is going on in these prisons is the truth and cannot and should not be hidden. It must be exposed.
How the truth is received depends on what the people who are exposed to it do about it. You can see that we are helpless in here. Just like the comrade Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, who is locked down in Pennsylvania having heart trouble and who can’t get any medical treatment. He has liberated himself from prison twice. So now they just ignore his pleas for help because they automatically assume, or suspect, its another plot to escape or because they want to see a radical like him hurry up and die.
These are matters of life and death, this is serious business and direct action needs to be taken because these are people whose lives are worth saving because of the real, worthwhile contributions they make for their people and their communities. We cannot allow them to sit here in prison and rot and fade away in the hands of their enemies.
My solidarity goes out to the Native brothers in Nevada State Prison in Carson City who are on a hunger strike for the support of their Native comrade who was attacked and assaulted by the correctional officers for helping Ikemba get word out to the people on the outside about his grave medical condition. You don’t see that type of solidarity extended to other races like that in here, so I have to give my “eagle feathers” to them for that! That’s good shit. We need to come together in here and organize ourselves. We need help from real comrades on the outs. Get involved in our struggle please; we have nobody out here in Nevada to help us.
We need people on the outside to get involved in our lives, in our struggles in real and meaningful ways, because these are real struggles we are going through, real crises, real tragedy, real oppression that we are up against. So, if you have a heart, get involved.
We cannot expect the people who keep us here to help us. We can’t trust any of these people who are in power, because if history has taught us anything, it’s taught us that they use that power to oppress us, not to help us. Government cannot be trusted or relied upon; just look at what happened with the governor of Illinois on Dec. 9, 2008, who was arrested for corruption. That’s what government means: corruption.
We can’t expect the people who hold us here to help us. We need people on the outs to get involved in our lives, in our struggles in real and meaningful ways, because these are real struggles we are going through, real crises, real tragedy, real oppression that we are up against. So, if you have a heart, get involved. I hope this article and the nurse’s testimony will open your eyes and open your heart to true activism.
It’s time to get activated. Its time to get aggravated. Its time to do something real, something right. Keep your head up, Ikemba. Stay strong, brother, because they can’t kill a revolutionary. Much love to the Bay View. Thank you for your support.
Coyote is a 31-year-old self-defined anarchist who holds his own prison chapter of Anarchist Black Cross in the confines of Nevada’s maximum security prison, Ely State Prison. To send letters of encouragement and support, write to Coyote Sheff, 55671, P.O. Box 1989, Ely, NV 89301-1989.
Excerpts from the declaration of Lorraine Memory
“My name is Lorraine Memory. … I am a registered nurse, licensed by the state of Nevada. I am also employed by the state of Nevada as a registered nurse at Ely State Prison. I am making this declaration because I believe that the medical care provided by the state of Nevada at the Ely State Prison falls below the standard of care mandated by the state medical licensing requirements and, further, that the health and safety of the individuals incarcerated or working at Ely State Prison has been and is endangered. …
“Dr. (Steven) McArthur and Warden E.K. McDaniel are indifferent to the medical needs of every inmate. I believe that most of Dr. McArthur’s medical decisions were made based upon the costs of treatment. Indeed, Dr. McArthur has bragged on many occasions about the amount of money he saved the prison system. …
“Dr. McArthur did not treat Mr. Lisle’s cardiac condition. I believe I know the reason behind this. There was another death row inmate who suffered a stroke and Dr. McArthur saved his life. Dr. McArthur told me that Warden McDaniel jumped on him and asked him why he did this. Warden McDaniel told Dr. McArthur that we are not to save a death row inmate’s life. Once this occurred, Dr. McArthur essentially stopped anything more than rudimentary care for death row inmates. …
Warden McDaniel told Dr. McArthur that we are not to save a death row inmate’s life.
“I believe another reason for Dr. McArthur’s actions is that he is unable to interpret lab results. … Dr. McArthur never attempted to diagnose a skin condition. … (To save money), inmates did not receive x-rays. … (N)o hepatitis testing is allowed … (B)y overruling the orders of a medical professional, I believe that Warden McDaniel is practicing medicine without a license. … (I)nability to have medical visits has persisted for a period in excess of eight weeks. …
“I believe that Dr. McArthur does not have the training or experience necessary to treat the inmates at Ely State Prison. Moreover, I do not believe that Dr. McArthur wanted to provide adequate medical care to the inmates. Based upon my observations of Dr. McArthur’s actions and statements, I believe Dr. McArthur to be racist and, in some cases, sadistic. I have heard Dr. McArthur call African American inmates ‘nigger,’ ‘nigger pussy,’ ‘Black motherfucker,’ and ‘Black son of a bitch’ to their faces. I have observed Dr. McArthur bait inmates into verbal confrontations to avoid treating them – through the use of similar racial slurs. …
“(H)e often discontinued medication for an inmate whenever the inmate responded to Dr. McArthur’s verbal provocation. In reality, Dr. McArthur discontinued life saving medication such as insulin which may have caused the early demise of some of our patients. …
I have heard Dr. McArthur call African American inmates ‘nigger,’ ‘nigger pussy,’ ‘Black motherfucker,’ and ‘Black son of a bitch’ to their faces. I have observed Dr. McArthur bait inmates into verbal confrontations to avoid treating them.
“I believe that Dr. McArthur wants to punish some of the inmates. He has said so. Moreover, Dr. McArthur specifically stated in my presence that he wanted to ‘kill every one of you mother fuckin’ Muslims in this country and not let any more of you in here.’ On another occasion Dr. McArthur stated to me he was ‘sick and tired of dealing with all these whiney people – I wish I could have been a hit man for the Mafia.’”
Excerpts from a letter from Darnell Harris
“I’m writing this on the behalf of a brother here by the name of Funches … For the past couple of months that I’ve known Mr. Funches, he’s been very respectful to me and others around us. He’s also taught me about a lot of things like our history, the struggle and other very important things I didn’t know. I’ve heard of Mr. Funches before I ever met him. …
“From the head warden to the warden of programs, and especially the doctor’s and nurses that are supposed to be here to help us, they don’t care if we live or die. Since I’ve been here at NSP (Nevada State Prison in Carson City), there have been a number of deaths caused because the medical staff refused to give that inmate any medical care when they needed it most. Just this year two people have died here at NSP because they didn’t get any medical care from these people. …
“The most recent death was maybe six months ago in Unit 8 here at NSP when an inmate was having stomach pains that day and all night and the medical staff refused to give him any care. The next morning his cell mate got up to a cold stiff body. …
“Now here is another case where Mr. Funches is doing everything he can to receive some medical care. He’s now at the point where he has gone on a hunger strike and it’s been a full week now and all these people just laugh at him while he’s in serious pain.
“These people have put this man in a cell that is unsafe for him and everyone else. A death trap for those who need serious medical help. There is no emergency call button or anything to get out a call for help if something was to happen to him. And the police just walk by laughing at him and beating people back here when they are only asking for help.
“I’ve witnessed the beating of an old man that has medical problems as well, while he was shackled at the legs and his hands as well. This happened a few weeks ago and the guards laugh and joke about it still.
“The point of me writing this letter is because I’m tired of seeing the deaths caused by the hands of this medical staff and the administration, not just here but this whole prison system. But most of all this man that is next door to me, Funches, is crying for someone to listen to him and give him some medical help before its too late and he ends up like the other people that have died because these people refused to help them.
“This brutha needs someone to really look into this and do something. I hear them all the time when he tries to talk to them. He’s nothing but respectful to them, and I know it’s hard because they don’t listen and they keep playing.
“I know you reach out to other operations that help people in need and you give a voice to inmates that really need it. So here are a few media outlets that you can contact to make this heard:
• FOX KRXI-TV Ch. 11, 4920 Brookside Ct., Reno, NV 89502, (775) 856-1100
• ABC KOLO-TV Ch. 8, P.O. Box 10000, Reno, NV 89510, (775) 858-8888
• KOH Talk Radio, 595 E. Plumb Ln., Reno, NV 89502
Darnell can be reached by mail: Darnell Harris, 66446, NSP, P.O. Box 607, Carson city NV 89702.
Solidarity from Adisa (Steve Champion), Stanley Tookie Williams’ best friend
“I have been following the articles you’ve written about Marritte Funches and Nevada State Prison. They were very informative. The things happening in Nevada are not isolated incidents. They are prevalent in California State Prisons and prisons in America.
“I applaud the activism of Marritte. One of the biggest fears of the system is prisoners waking up and organizing. I send a shout of solidarity to Marritte.”
Adisa can be reached by mail: Steve Champion, C-58001, San Quentin State Prison, San Quentin CA 94974.
Marritte too can be reached by mail: Marritte Funches, 37050, P.O. Box 607, Carson City NV 89702.