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Missouri prisoners in solitary confinement follow California’s lead, begin hunger strike

November 17, 2013

by Shyheim El-Mumin

I am a prisoner being held captive here in the state of Missouri at the Potosi Correctional Center’s Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation, a form of solitary confinement) unit. Since my arrival here on Aug. 9, 2012, I’ve been a target for harassment. This is my fourth time here.

Potosi Correctional Center, Missouri, aerial view
An aerial view of Potosi Correctional Center
This is a maximum security prison, Level 5. This is the prison where they house Missouri’s death row prisoners. If I’m not mistaken, it is the only place where death row prisoners are allowed in general population. That alone says a lot about this prison.

The prisoners here are very passive, docile and self-patrolled. Even in the face of harsh racism, abuse and mistreatment, there are literally only a handful of us who dare to challenge the conditions of our confinement.

Every time I’ve been to this prison, I always catch an assault on one of these racist pigs. They are very in-your-face abusive. I try to address my issues through the proper channels, i.e., letters to the warden, grievances etc. to no avail! So I’ve often had to defend myself physically.

Well, on Sept. 23, 2013, Col. Ross and a new officer – first day on the job – tore my cell apart while I was in a shower. Ross has used “cell searches” as a means to taunt and harass prisoners by confiscating allowed items, tearing family photos and destroying legal materials. He’s very confident in his corrupt behavior due to the fact that his immediate supervisor, Correctional Officer II Wilfong, supports such reckless behavior.

Well, to make a long story short, I asked to see a supervisor and was denied. I refused to give back the handcuffs. Once a supervisor, COII Wilfong, arrived, I complied with the orders to be cuffed to the bench. While I was on the bench, Col. Ross started using foul, derogatory language towards me.

This provoked me into a physical altercation where I had to fight six officers. I held my own. Shit, I’m only 150 pounds, 5 feet 9 inches, but they didn’t want to see me head on. Once I was taken down and cuffed – I slipped my cuffs – and leg irons placed on me, I was beaten for like three minutes. I ended up with a busted lip, nose, a bruise under my eye and a fractured rib, and I was denied medical care from a nurse, Samantha Turntine, whose boyfriend was one of the officers I fought.

I was then stripped out and placed in an air-conditioned cell naked for a week without any mattress, blankets etc. I had to lie on concrete, enduring severe pain.

The conditions, transgressions and violations experienced on PCC Ad-Seg offenders are continually worsening and becoming more restrictive.

As a result of this, about 15 prisoners decided to go on a hunger strike to protest too much abuse, neglect, sanitation issues etc. We’ve been on hunger strike since Oct. 13, going on a week as of this writing. We got prisoners to sign a petition in support of our cause. The following prisoners are the hunger strikers of Potosi.

We strike in support of brothers out there in California and across the nation held captive in these SHU units and Ad-Seg units: Shyheim D. El-Mumin (509071), J.C. Bryant (1161135), Dorrian Perry (1077683), Barry Baker (1094541), Hashim Mohammad (1105506), James Poe (349575), Kyle Roberts (1173831), Anthony Hughs (115096) and Garry Mays (1130204).

We are asking that you all who are reading this contact Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Director George A. Lumbardi at (573) 526-6607, P.O. Box 236, Jefferson City, MO 65102, www.doc.mo.gov; Warden Troy Steele, (573) 438-6000, 11593 State Hwy O, Mineral Point, MO 63660; as well as the ACLU in St. Louis, Missouri, and ask for John Chasenoff, Civil Rights Division, ACLU Eastern Missouri, 454 Whittier, St. Louis, MO 63108, (314) 652-3111.

PCC prisoners are in desperate need of assistance from any and all outside organizations, politicians, agencies, state representatives, officials, media, investigative agencies etc. Please assist us to make prison officials cease their transgressions and malicious violations of our federally and state-protected rights and cease continuing restrictions of confinement.

We sent a copy of the petition to these people as well as others. We’re hoping to get their attention through the media as well. We have little to no grassroots movements advocating for prisoners’ rights. We’re hoping with a little push from the outside that something can be done soon.

Potosi Correctional Center, Missouri, buildings
Potosi prison was one of the largest building projects in the Midwest during the 1980s. Costing $56 million, it is designed for 500 maximum security prisoners.
Prisoners have died in the past here at PCC attempting a hunger strike. These corrupt officers will try to do everything they can to undermine our strike. This is a peaceful demonstration. Several of us have chronic care issues. I’m diabetic and I have not taken my medication in over a week. I can’t take it due to the fact I’m not eating. J.C. Bryant has high blood pressure.

Their hunger strike policy doesn’t have a set mandate that outlines the procedure when a patient who needs chronic care needs goes on hunger strike. We’re supposed to be placed in the infirmary after 21 missed meals. We’ve missed that many or more, but staff are neglecting to mark down meds missed.

We appreciate your help. Please read our petition.

Petition

We prisoners being held at Potosi Correctional Center in the custody of MDOC, being housed in the prison’s Administrative Segregation Units HV 2 and 3B, sign this petition voluntarily under our own free wills, without any coercion, threats, harm nor promises to obtain our signatures.

The following issues outlined within this petition are continuing and ongoing, significantly adverse issues and transgressions experienced by us collectively and individually. We have repeatedly attempted to address these issues via the prison grievance process. Our attempts have been unsuccessful and perfunctorily denied.

Our issues are protected rights under the U.S. Constitution, Missouri Constitution, Penal Code Chapter 217 RSMO. Additionally, these rights are recognized and protected under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Issues

1. Due process rights regarding deprivation of property and deprivation of liberty in relation to normal daily routine – including placement in restrictive Ad-Seg units for significant and extensive time periods for virtually nothing, i.e., severely minor petty infractions, disciplinary hearings, release from Ad-Seg units and assignment to general population status, protective custody committee etc.

Due process rights regarding deprivation of property and deprivation of liberty.

2. Right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment, i.e., PCC guards regularly abuse their authority and position with the use of excessive force, deliberate and callous indifference toward prisoners suffering at the hand of their fellow staff members, physical and verbal abuse by guards, retaliation on prisoners for speaking out against transgressions, injurious and malicious conduct inflicted by staff, retaliation for utilizing the grievance process, taunting and truculent harassment by guards, psychological torture through the use of “strip cells,” which cause extreme and severe intentional emotional distress which results in mental illness for many prisoners, as well as physical injury caused by the “strip cells.”

Right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.

3. Right to be free from inhumane and/or excessively restrictive conditions of confinement. This includes, but is not limited to, sanitation regarding clothing, showers, squalor of living quarters, inadequate food portions, ill-prepared or under-cooked food, sanitation regarding food preparation by protective custody inmates – protective custody inmates are responsible for preparing the Ad-Seg units’ food, e.g., making juice, putting the food portions on Ad-Seg offenders’ food trays before the trays are sent to the Ad-Seg units. It is a known fact amongst Ad-Seg prisoners that protective custody offenders (PC) regularly tamper with the Ad-Seg prisoners’ food!

On Oct. 4, 2013, a P.C. prisoner was caught urinating in the Ad-Seg prisoners’ juice! This type of behavior is known by all non-P.C. prisoners to regularly occur. There is no telling how long these types of acts have been occurring! Officials are indifferent to this type of behavior from P.C. prisoners.

P.C. prisoners tampering with Ad-Seg prisoners’ food constitutes subjecting Ad-Seg prisoners to the possibility of contagious diseases, e.g., AIDS, HIV, Hepatitis A, B, C etc. Officials are aware of this risk of exposure to disease yet fail to remedy it and thus are guilty of deliberate indifference and failure to protect!

There was a time, fairly recently, when HU3 GP offenders prepared Ad-Seg trays. This was an efficient practice and prevented Ad-Seg prisoners from being exposed to risk of disease. P.C. prisoners are vindictive towards G.P. and Ad-Seg prisoners and resent G.P. prisoners for making P.C. offenders feel like they require administrative protection! G.P. offenders should be allowed to prepare Ad-Seg trays once again to minimize risk to Ad-Seg prisoners.

Right to be free from inhumane and/or excessively restrictive conditions of confinement.

4. The right to be free from denial of medical services and to receive adequate and appropriate medical care from prison medical health care providers. Corizen is a private FOR PROFIT corporation. Corizen’s only motivation and goal is to make profit! As a private corporation motivated by financial gain, Corizen often employs inexperienced and undertrained staff at a significantly lower pay rate. This results in the negligence, denial of treatment and malpractice by medical staff! Also Corizen has a standard custom to deny prisoners medical treatment that is necessary because they simply do not want to spend any “unnecessary finances” on treatment that is not “life threatening.” This is precisely why Corizen, formally “CMS” has been the subject of much litigation in prisons across the nation.

Additionally, prisoners who suffer from mental illness are denied access to treatment or medical care. Mentally ill prisoners are routinely put in Ad-Seg and left there. Potosi Correctional Center has an extensive “special needs” unit (SNU) that is designed to care for mentally ill prisoners.

However, due to unlimited staff and space in the SHU unit, mentally ill prisoners are routinely warehoused in Ad-Seg, where officers do not have to “deal with” these prisoners. This is deliberately denying necessary treatment to these prisoners and causing them to experience grossly excessive stints in Ad-Seg based solely on their mental illness.

Moreover, non-mentally ill Ad-Seg offenders are exposed to the rants and disturbing “outbursts” of these mentally ill prisoners. This is a systematic design to “punish” non-mentally ill Ad-Seg offenders and deprive them of sleep by constant exposure to loud noise. This constitutes “psychological warfare” by constant stress!

Right to be free from denial of medical services and to receive adequate and appropriate medical care from prison medical health care providers.

5. PCC officials violate prisoners’ right to receive adequate outside exercise a minimum of three times a week. DOC policy (IPS 11-48) “medical exercise” and the Missouri Court of Appeals in Hosna v. Groose specifically mandate that all prisoners will be given outside recreation and exercise no less than three times a week for an hour each period.

However, Ad-Seg prisoners are denied this right! Moreover, when Ad-Seg prisoners receive a conduct violation for ANY reason, they receive living area restriction (LAR) for disciplinary sanctions. This precludes Ad-Seg offenders from receiving recreation, thus violating Ad-Seg prisoners’ rights with respect to adequate out-of-cell exercise.

Right to receive adequate outside exercise a minimum of three times a week.

6. Right to receive access to the courts and access to self-help reading materials. DOC Policy IS/SOP 21-1.2 specifically states that Ad-Seg offenders are allowed to possess and retain a total of six books at one time. Three books are allowed from the prison library and three prisoners’ personal books are allowed.

Despite the clear language within the above-cited policy, Ad-Seg prisoners are DENIED any personal books! Numerous prisoners are pro se litigants and own various soft-cover legal self-help books and educational books, which they are denied. This is done to impede or frustrate prisoners’ attempts to litigate court actions and to deny prisoners access to the court system.

Law clerks or “jailhouse lawyers” are prohibited by prison policy from assisting prisoners with any form of legal assistance. Pro se prisoners who are “laymen” and/or lack necessary skills, knowledge and experience in the legal field are forced to complete a special unit legal request form in order to receive the needed legal information.

If Ad-Seg prisoners do not know exactly what legal information to request, they are forced to describe briefly and concisely their legal situation and then are left to the mercy of the unskilled and inadequate “law clerks.” More often than not the law clerks lack the skills to do thorough legal research on the computer to obtain needed legal information. This is another systematic design to satisfy public policy on paper while simultaneously realistically severely restricting Ad-Seg prisoners access to courts, providing us with “law clerks” with inadequate skills.

Furthermore, in order for ANY Ad-Seg prisoner to receive ANY legal materials from the library – case laws, statutes, court rules etc. – the prisoner MUST prove that he has a legal deadline imposed by law in relation to an active, pending case. If an Ad-Seg prisoner fails to show a pending case with a timeline, he is DENIED ALL LEGAL MATERIALS!

Right to receive access to the courts and access to self-help reading materials.

7. The Ad-Seg committee is exposing Ad-Seg offenders to a “Catch 22” which imposes an “atypical and significant hardship” in relation to the normal daily routine associated with prison conditions. This also violates Ad-Seg prisoners’ equal protection rights in relation to “similarly situated” prisoners.

The Ad-Seg committee forces Ad-Seg prisoners to double cell for up to 90 days in order to be released from Ad-Seg confinement. If the Ad-Seg prisoner receives a CDV (conduct violation), he is given a longer stay in Ad-Seg no matter how trivial the CDV.

If an Ad-Seg offender has zero CDVs in a 12-month period, yet receives one CDV for a trivial incident – e.g., violating an institutional rule – he gets more Ad-Seg time. However, if a GP offender receives the same CDV and already has three or four CDVs on his record, he would receive activity restriction as a sanction, as opposed to Ad-Seg assignment, like the Ad-Seg prisoner with the better behavior record!

Additionally, if an Ad-Seg offender is released to GP (General Population), he must sign a “contract,” aka a “program plan.” Once he signs the forced contract in exchange for release from Ad-Seg confinement, he is released to GP.

The forced terms of the “contract” state that if an offender released from Ad-Seg receives a CDV, no matter how minor or trivial, he is automatically guilty of violating the forced terms of the contract. As a result of “violating” his contract by receiving a minor CDV, he is automatically placed back into Ad-Seg to repeat the process.

Whereas, if the Ad-Seg prisoner wasn’t on the contract, he would not be subject to being placed back into Ad-Seg automatically for the same minor CDV. Additionally, any prisoner in GP who receives the same CDV isn’t exposed to automatic placement in Ad-Seg.

This violates the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and subjects the Ad-Seg prisoner to re-assignment for incidents that would otherwise not warrant or justify Ad-Seg assignment. This vicious cycle isn’t related to any “legitimate penological security interest or goal.” It only serves as an unconstitutional mechanism to impose grossly disproportionate and excessively lengthy Ad-Seg assignment upon offenders by prison officials in an attempt to control or remedy the PCC bed space issue, as well as discriminate against a certain “class” of prisoners by nefarious and injurious Ad-Seg assignment.

Further, PCC Ad-Seg unit provides no “incentive” to Ad-Seg prisoners, as the other Missouri DOC facilities do. Double cell status is considered “progressive” toward GP status. However, Ad-Seg prisoners are placed in a double cell with zero privileges or incentives or means to motivate continued good behavior and progression! It is a very stressful proposition!

Other Missouri DOC so-called “progressive” Ad-Seg units such as JCCC offer double cell status incentives via certain privileges. Ad-Seg prisoners at JCCC receive food items through canteen purchase, retain property such as T.V.s, Walkmans, clothes (personal), typewriters, fans, etc.

The above incentive procedure encourages continued good conduct, relieves stress, provides motivation for correction of issues, reduces tension and hostility, reduces violence between cellmates, reduces tension and strain on staff-prisoner relations and is overall generally positive and encouraging to Ad-Seg prisoners. PCC officials should institute a similar incentive program to facilitate successful rehabilitation for Ad-Seg prisoners.

There are electrical outlets in place in double cells at PCC Ad-Seg Units 2A and 3B. Furthermore, double celling is essential for the efficient operations of the prison. If offenders didn’t voluntarily double cell, there would be no place to house the excess prisoners. Why not reward prisoners for their cooperation?

Equal protection rights in relation to “similarly situated” prisoners.

8. Officials are sanctioning Ad-Seg offenders with living area restriction (LAR). This is not supported by Chapter 217.RSM, the governing penal code. Ad-Seg offenders are already confined and restricted to their cells and living areas. Therefore, this sanction is “arbitrary and capricious” and excessive! It serves no legitimate penological security interest or goal.

9. Potosi Correctional Center refuses to transfer prisoners to appropriate facilities based on the prisoners’ custody level. Several prisoners meet the guidelines under the newly instituted “external re-classification system,” effective May 1, 2013, to be housed at minimum security facilities.

PCC officials are therefore denying to those minimum security prisoners housed at PCC, which is maximum security, access to rehabilitative pre-release programs that prepare pre-release prisoners for successful transition and re-entry into society! They’re also denied vocational and job training that only minimum security facilities provide!

Relief

The above issues and transgressions violate Ad-Seg offenders’ First, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and 14th Amendment constitutional rights, violate relevant sections and amendments to the Missouri Constitution, Chapter 217 RSMO, and violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The conditions, transgressions and violations experienced on PCC Ad-Seg offenders are continually worsening and becoming more restrictive.

PCC prisoners are in desperate need of assistance from any and all outside organizations, politicians, agencies, state representatives, officials, media, investigative agencies etc. Please assist us to make prison officials cease their transgressions and malicious violations of our federally and state-protected rights and cease continuing restrictions of confinement.

Missouri Potosi prisoners' petition signatures 101513

Send our brother some love and light: James Lenoir (Shyheim D. El-Mumin), 509071, PCC, 11593 State Hwy O, Mineral Point, MO 63660.

 

2 thoughts on “Missouri prisoners in solitary confinement follow California’s lead, begin hunger strike

  1. Patricia Krenik

    The purpose of confinement is to get those who do harm to the rest of us out of circulation so that folks can feel safe. The purpose is not to subjugate prisoners to unusual punishment. The punishment of being locked up with their freedom removed is punishment enough. It is not right for guards to harass or do unusual punishments such as stripping a person and leaving him to sleep cold on a concrete floor.

    That makes the guards no better than the prisoners when that happens. I understand that being a Guard is also a tough job, and sometimes Guards have to defend themselves. But instances such as mentioned about have no business in the prison system. The Guards are not God to met out individual punishments, they are there to keep order.

    Reply
  2. NoJuan

    Are you concerned about this Patricia because your son, Eric B. Ojeda is in prison for multiple counts of raping a child under the age of fourteen?

    Reply

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