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Nurse fired for speaking out: ‘I am on a mission to stop torture at CDCR’

December 31, 2014

by Paul Spector, RN, EMT-P, Capt. U.S. Army Ret.

I’ve been a nurse since 1984, a paramedic firefighter and group home manager before that. My training is in inner city ER nursing. I also do floor, ICU and disaster response. I’ve worked in Tampa, Oakland and San Francisco; I’m a Red Cross volunteer and was a U.S. Army medical officer during Desert Storm. I love dogs, search and rescue, and biking. I am on a mission to stop torture at CDCR.

Charles Graner, made infamous by the photos of torture at the U.S. Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, learned how to torture prisoners at SCI Greene, the prison in Pennsylvania where Mumia Abu-Jamal was held for decades on death row.

Charles Graner, made infamous by the photos of torture at the U.S. Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad, learned how to torture prisoners at SCI Greene, the prison in Pennsylvania where Mumia Abu-Jamal was held for decades on death row.

In 2006, I worked at Atascadero State Mental Hospital. I learned that mental illness can be treated. With compassionate, professional care, many returned to loved ones and society. No torture was used, the concept counter to modern medicine.

After transferring to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)-run California Men’s Colony State Prison (CMC) in 2007, I was given a month of training and told that abuse, be it physical, mental or sexual, was not allowed.

Assigned to the Mental Health Crisis Bed (MHCB) unit, I found 80-plus patients suffering torture, sexual abuse and neglect. President Obama would recognize it as torture. The vast majority of victims were Black or Hispanic, all the abusers White.

I am on a mission to stop torture at CDCR.

Cold, dark cells hold captives in isolated sensory deprivation – drugged, sick and in pain. Nurses prevented death only to prolong torment, sometimes for years. The number of patients suffering preventable deaths during “medical treatment” in CDCR facilities may exceed all legal executions nationwide.

Disguised as a mental health ward, it’s a dungeon. Most of the prisoners were naked, all privacy and possessions gone. I now suspect many are also innocent. Cut off from the world, they have no voice. Confined to a small cement box 24 hours a day with no exercise, yard privileges or sunlight, disease, psychological damage and deaths are predictable. No effective medical care is possible in these conditions.

I had never seen intentional harm done to patients in a medical facility. I’ve protected patients from attacks in the past – by criminals, drunken husbands, rival gang members etc., but never law enforcement officers. Having worked in Germany, I know the stigma created by medical professionals who helped run Hitler’s death camps, like Dr. Mengele. Conditions at CMC are strikingly similar.

For years, I couldn’t understand how this could happen in California, in the USA, after Martin Luther King’s message, after electing President Obama. The video of an officer allowed to strangle a Black man to death helped me understand, as did the report on CIA black prisons and other atrocities. It’s like the KKK with badges.

Having worked in Germany, I know the stigma created by medical professionals who helped run Hitler’s death camps, like Dr. Mengele. Conditions at CMC are strikingly similar.

Immune to legal or ethical restraints, a policy of abuse targets minorities. Videoing the attacks at least creates a record. At CDCR, videoing is a criminal offense, cameras searched for, abusers safe, victims isolated, vulnerable and alone.

Autopsies by CDCR doctors never mention torture. Victims can be attacked without concern that it will be reported, recorded or punished. Protected from discovery, abusers don’t need to hide under sheets.

I know this first hand. I tried to report the abuse, from poisoning to attempted murder. Supervisors did nothing. My report to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Meyers was removed from his mail box. Many tried to follow the Nurse Practice Act, requiring us to report abuse. Most lost their jobs immediately, even union reps.

Immune to legal or ethical restraints, a policy of abuse targets minorities. Videoing the attacks at least creates a record. At CDCR, videoing is a criminal offense, cameras searched for, abusers safe, victims isolated, vulnerable and alone.

Abuses at CDCR are so similar to the CIA’s, I now wonder if they were being tested on prisoners. Being isolated in a cold cement room seems a standard, as does the infliction of pain, hopelessness, sexual degradation, threats to abuse prisoners’ loved ones and punishment for staff refusing to participate. Many CDCR officers have experience in military prisons.

When military grade pepper gas is used, victims experience the pain of being burned alive. Massive poly-drug overdoses induce hallucinations and psychosis. I suspect these, too, will turn out to be CIA techniques. Approximately 20 percent of CIA victims were innocent. My patients have no secrets to divulge, but I suspect many are also innocent.

Abuses at CDCR are so similar to the CIA’s, I now wonder if they were being tested on prisoners.

I treated torture victims from the Gulf States and Africa, now America. Techniques used are designed to break enemy forces, avoiding the Geneva Convention by leaving no marks. Here are a few; some are so degrading I can’t speak of them.

Isolation – considered worse than beatings, rapes and starvation by sufferers like kidnap victim Amanda Knight. In 1829, Quakers used it to force salvation. Then as now, mass insanity and deaths result. The U.N. calls it torture; medical research agrees.

Mind altering drugs – causing terrifying hallucinations, psychosis and suicide are abused, thousands of doses kept in open, uncounted bins.

Stripping victims – of all clothing, bedding and privacy is practiced in China, North Korea and CDCR. Females then verbally ridicule the men, an Abu Ghraib technique.

Substandard care – Baseline needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy) are not met. Patients respond to compassionate, professional care. Sadistic ritual abuse may have value to white supremacists, sociopaths and sadists, but it has no medical, psychological or rehabilitative use. Without sunlight, hope or human contact, suffering replaces modern medicine.

Forced feeding – used in medically necessary situations, it’s bloody, painful and dangerous. As punishment, I feel it’s a form of degrading rape. Attackers all powerful, victims left in pain, violated, penetrated and degraded. One brave U.S. Navy nurse is now on trial for refusing to participate in this torture. He may be in isolation.

Pain – is constant. Besides cement beds, shackles, temperature extremes etc., a chemical weapon, military capsicum, replaces the rack. Attacking neural receptors, patients experience 10 out of 10 agony. It damages lungs, eyes and can be fatal. Naked patients’ genitals are targeted, cries of “I can’t breathe” and “I give up” ignored. Massive volumes of the gas turn cells opaque, the air poisonous, an execution method similar to Hitler’s, whose sick SS leaders are still being hunted down worldwide.

Coating the patient with oil, then a fine powder irritant, a screaming horror jokingly called a “powdered donut” is created. No cleaning of the unit is done, all patients are exposed and fans used for further mass punishment, the powder weapon airborne. Patients have only toilet water for decontamination, an ineffective, unsanitary, degrading policy.

CIA tortures, now too un-American for terrorists, are used against Americans on a mass basis. The CIA calls rectal torture “rectal feeding,” pretending to be medical treatment. CDCR hides dark deeds behind this mask of “medical care.”

The CIA calls rectal torture “rectal feeding,” pretending to be medical treatment. CDCR hides dark deeds behind this mask of “medical care.”

Preventing abuse reports is vital and retaliation swift. Murderers are given addresses of objecting staff, data on their children and their social security numbers, all present in state records. Solicited to do violence, motives are provided, with one RN’s wife suffering permanent injuries. Hate letters circulate widely, some signed, spreading fear and job loss. This concentrates the number of unethical staff, especially supervisors. A “code of silence” is enforced. Graduate nurses learn never to report abuse.

Lindsay Hayes of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives was commissioned by the state. He found CDCR’s practices increased deaths. Prisoners stripped, with no possessions, held in small cells and sleeping on cement floors, he called CDCR’s treatment “punitive” and “anti-therapeutic.” Guards, not medical professionals, controlled the conditions within the cells. Worse, he noted that CDCR employees sometimes falsified watch logs.

In my case, I saved a group of abandoned patients. The abuser falsified 90-plus watch logs, claiming her absence couldn’t have been seen because I was “sleeping,” costing me my job and pension despite the fact that she was not in the building. She continued work as usual, immune to the “zero tolerance policy.” She withheld lifesaving equipment from a Black man in respiratory arrest, was allowed computer use to look up data on ethical staff etc. Supported by supervisors, she did not work alone.

When caregivers can’t report abuse, patients can be harmed with impunity, racist and sexual abuse open-ended. My attempts to stop the abuse include contacting state and federal authorities; none acted. Both the U.N. and Amnesty International have reports of torture at CDCR but can do nothing.

Preventing abuse reports is vital and retaliation swift. When caregivers can’t report abuse, patients can be harmed with impunity, racist and sexual abuse open-ended.

After my continued reports, CDCR wasted approximately $30 million on a new “treatment” facility at CMC, hiding the dungeon but run by the same folks, some promoted. Supported by billions in tax dollars, reports from inmates and other professionals indicate CDCR is running many such facilities.

Why put minority patients there? Diseases thrive; suicide is endemic. Many told of being framed by law enforcement. One officer in particular, 30 years a state records expert, supported the abusers and refused to stop actions harming both patients and staff. She lied in court and may have impacted thousands of cases, isolation and brain damage hindering victims’ attempts to find justice.

Like Hitler’s “treatment solutions,” nurses must not cooperate. As a nation, it tears us apart. As a state, it wastes billions and will eventually be exposed. As Ferguson shows, racist law enforcement is no longer a welcome standard in America.

I noted events (often called footprints) common to sociopaths, like inflicting cruel and unusual physical and psychological torture, “suicides” and clever deceptions. High functioning sociopaths can leave a trail of injuries and deaths with no obvious perpetrator. Charles Manson would approve.

Like Hitler’s “treatment solutions,” nurses must not cooperate. As a nation, it tears us apart. As a state, it wastes billions and will eventually be exposed. As Ferguson shows, racist law enforcement is no longer a welcome standard in America.

Isolation removes the victim’s voice, screams unheard. Like Amanda Knight, chained to a wall, surrender is not an option. Sociopaths love tormenting helpless captives, often children, the retarded and mentally ill – a euphoric, sexual need escalating over time. Racists profess to torment only minorities. Both would feel at home in CDCR.

Some victims are my fellow veterans and, innocent or not, Black or White, all need rescue now.

This is dedicated to Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Stansbury Jr., Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham, Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, Michael Brown … teardrops of death in an ocean of legalized hate.

“I believe it … to be cruel and wrong … I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body.” – Charles Dickens, after visiting prisoners in isolation at Eastern State Prison.

Paul Spector, who can be reached at stopcdcrpt.abuse@gmail.com, goes more deeply into the topics introduced here in an interview by Minister of Information JR that will be published soon online and in the February Bay View.

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19 thoughts on “Nurse fired for speaking out: ‘I am on a mission to stop torture at CDCR’

  1. Paul spector

    A few additional points now present themselves.

    Why would a black man allow himself to be arrested when the result may well be Torture, perhaps “suicide”, insanity or a lifetime alone in a cement box? Not surrendering to Officers has been used to justify killing people. If crule and unusual punishment was not being widely practiced, surrendering would make sense. Death or Torture, which would you choose?

    Was the assination of the 2 NYPD officers caused by isolation Torture? We know the shooter had spent time in prison and had a history of suicidal ideation. Isolation Torture can result in homicidal and suicidal violence in its victoms. The tragic deaths of these Officers and many other innocents may well be caused by mistreatment and poor medical care in prison.

    Reply
  2. ronald falco

    This type abuse even happens in county lockups not so much the physical abuse but mental abuse from some correctional officers and the mental health staff I was placed in solitary for no reason not allowed to use phone not taken to court for five months taunted by correctional officers and mental health staff about my daughter WHY this type of torture is being allowed in the Chautauqua County lockup in New York I will never understand

    Reply
  3. Jim

    Now you know why so many vets refuse to go to mental facilities owned by the government…am sure I would be tortured and killed

    Reply
  4. Aaron

    Virtually everything you claim in this article is patently false. You are twisting the narrative to suit your political leanings. What you fail to mention, is that only some inmates are isolated because they physically assault staff and other inmates. You leave out that it is any inmates right to refuse medication, unless they have demonstrated a repeated pattern of self-harm or harm to others. You fail to state that only suicidal inmates are striped of their clothing and it is to ensure their safety, because clothing is often fashioned into devices of suicide i.e. a noose. You blatantly lie about inmates level of human contact. Every cell has a window to let in sunlight and inmates have virtually constant contact with staff in the form of meals, rounds and wellness checks. Another misleading bullet point; forced feedings are only performed when a patient is severely malnourished. Pain? Seriously? From shackles? The only inmates in shackles are those that are in lockup units because they are a danger to others. Also, capsicum is just fancy verbiage for pepper spray, and the policy on it's use is very strict. Lastly, I'm going to address all of your Hitler and Nazi comparisons. What happened in Germany was atrocious. A violent dictator rounded up masses of INNOCENT people and burned them alive. I find it almost appalling that you never mention the behavior of the inmates. That they self-mutilate and that's why they are restrained. That they assault staff with urine and feces aka gassing. You also forget to mention that many of the inmates in the lockup units, many of them convicted rapists, enjoy purposely exposing their genitals and masturbating in front of female staff. But again, you didn't feel that was vital information. Lastly, as to the racism claim, much of the staff that works in CDCR are Latino or Black. Tying the deaths of civilians to what happens inside a prison is not an apples to apples comparison. Using one thing to shame the other is very misleading. The most laughable aspect in all of your rant to me is that despite all of the alleged atrocities you claim to have witnessed, it didn't stop you from taking a hefty sum of money from the very prison industrial complex you are railing against.

    Reply
    1. anonymous

      Aaron, I'm assuming you either don't work at CMC, or you're trying to push your own agenda. I just resigned from CMC. I wasn't a health care professional but my role allowed me to be "privy" to conversations between the CNO and SRN IIIs and I have to agree that there's a hefty amount of corruption at play. Overhearing a discussion about giving another employee a less-desirable schedule for pointing out that psychotic or depressed inmates are being housed in an ad-seg unit (which is supposed to be utilized for disciplinary measures and is no place for someone dealing with a mental health crisis) against state regulations was just one of the last disgusting things I witnessed before leaving. The fact that the MHCB is licensed under and run by someone who uses a false surname at the facility and can't be looked-up for filing grievances under the license verification site is a but one of numerous examples of the broken management system at CMC. I wish I could say more, but there are still a few good people there trying to create a humane environment for line staff and inmates alike whom I fear would be retaliated against if I continue. I've just heard that even the latest union steward who was promoted to work off-site is in collusion with upper management, promising to scrap a vote of no-confidence filed on an SRN that almost 100 line staff signed in hopes of getting relief from the bullying and unfair practices they're dealing with in exchange for the union person's cushy position. Nurses and LVNs can't even trust those who are supposed to have their best interests in mind.

      Reply
      1. anonymous

        you do realize in their union contracts, higher up medical get to receive hefty merit stipends for shortcheating on medical expenses… that is why they have no conscience about it…. greedy soulless monsters

        Reply
        1. Aaron

          All of those contracts are available to the public, you can read them yourself. I have, and not a single one of them offers a merit stipend for "shortcheating" medical expenses. The cold truth is that healthcare is a business and businesses cost money. No matter the type of healthcare operation, be it private, public or correctional, the goal is to give the most efficient and cost effective care. That is a fact. Reining in cost is an inherent incentive to all administrators. It does not make them soulless.

          Reply
          1. Mary Tunstall

            You must not haue seen the bonuses the the CMO's get for staying under budget I assume Giuing an example only here if a Head CMO should happen to make 560 thousand a year if he stays under budget he recieues a 560 thousand dollar bonus for that year Read that a few years back in a Uacauille newspaper when they were listing how much money eueryone was making I was stunned!

    2. GUEST

      Working at CDCR level 4 prison and witnessing the SAME, EXACT ATROCITIES this nurse mentions, I've had to file charges with INSPECTOR'S GENERAL's office under an ANONYMOUS name. So…when you comment that this NURSE is twisting the facts? I can assure she's not. The days of CDCR CUSTODY OFFERS' UNION, WARDENS and all the big money fat cats making billions off the taxpayers and jsutifying their torture tactics ARE WINDING DOWN…WILL SOON BE OVER. GET OUT OF YOUR CAVE and look at 2015 -FUTURE. the 3 STRIKES LAW was dismissed.

      Reply
      1. Aaron

        I have worked at a level 4 prison myself. While there are occasions where inmate adjustments are poorly carried out, that does not constitute an atrocity being perpetrated. Wardens and Unions making money off of the taxpayers? Aside from their salary? Laughable. Every state employees salary is a matter of public record. Compare that to the dollar amount spent on housing and providing healthcare to inmates then tell me where those billions are going.

        Reply
  5. Anonymous

    What you need to do is file a whistle blower complaint …. For gross ethical violations, and for not following court orders. Send a copy of the letter to the federal three judge panel who are responsible for health/mental health care in CDCR prisons. That will get their attention. The unions are useless and are in collusion with the Democrats who want to remove the prison health care system for the scrutiny of the receivership.

    Reply
  6. anne

    This is horrible! Only reading this makes your skin crawl. I can't believe we still live in a world where things like this happen. I don't know how the justice department can do nothing about this.

    Reply
  7. Galius Canis

    as a white person i really resent the white supremacist comments… stop isolating white people who suffer in prison
    There are really truly white people in prison!! no really…. check uit out…. white people do NOT have a special pass…
    stop playing the damned racecard and maybe your argument for p0rison reform wont be made a racist one.

    Reply
  8. a new view

    this article could have had so much more weight with just the facts, and opinions left out… not to mention it is very "victimy". and not in the way that makes people want to help

    Reply
    1. Fecaphilia

      This is a first person whistleblowing account, you dumb sh1t – NOT an "article."

      "this comment section" doesn't need you, "a new view."

      Reply
  9. marina ragsdale

    Dear Paul . Please take time to contact human right reporter /author Deborah Dupre /facebook . Expose a crime you been witnessing . Sincerely . M. Ragsdale

    Reply
  10. Doe

    People who do not work in CDC should not comment. The propaganda in this "view" is very misleading to people who are not in CDC (CDCR). One fact I will point out is that when a inmate has a medical emergency they are tended to immediately. For you and I we would be waiting in the emergency for hours. For CDCR prisons being a torture is a joke. This is because California is a liberal state and maybe even the ones who are posting their ignorant opinions.

    Reply

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