by Unheard Voices OTCJ, Nikki Davenport of FAM Queen Team and Mei Azaad of Fight Toxic Prisons
Following recent exposure of corruption and abuse in Alabama prisons, the Alabama Department of Corrections is retaliating against hunger striker Kenneth Traywick. ADOC Commissioner Jeffrey Dunn and Regional Director Cheryl Price have also lashed out at the non-profit prison advocacy organization Unheard Voices OTCJ, as well as inside organizer Robert E. Council.
Unheard Voices OTCJ was originally founded by Nyesha M. Jones of Longview Texas and Aaron Traywick (deceased) of Washington, D.C. Since then, the organization has become a platform in which many on the inside of America’s prisons are able to let their voices be heard.
Fortunately, many in Alabama have shed the light on ADOC’s corrupt ways, which are now under federal investigation. Unheard Voices OTCJ has played a huge part in giving the Department of Justice the evidence they needed to determine that the men in Alabama are in fact living in unconstitutional environments and conditions.
In an attempt to discourage Unheard Voices OTCJ, ADOC spokesperson Bob Horton contacted Donna Smalley, questioning her involvement as a voice for men in prison. Shortly after that, on March 26, 2019, confined citizen Kenneth S. Traywick was taken from Staton Correctional Facility and sent to Limestone Correctional Facility, where Capts. Robinson and Langford informed him that he was placed at Limestone because of his connections with Unheard Voices OTCJ, according to Jeffrey Dunn and Cheryl Price. Traywick’s transfer to Limestone CF violated his due process rights as well as ADOC’s own regulation, which state that prisoners are entitled to a re-classification hearing before being transferred to a higher security camp.
Once at Limestone, Traywick did in fact team up with other confined citizens to inform others at Limestone of their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. In response to that, Capt. Langford informed Robert E. Council that Warden Estes and Warden Patrick ordered him and Traywick not to post flyers around the prison.
On April 11, 2019, Traywick was placed in solitary confinement allegedly under investigation for “conspiracy to violate an institutional rule.” At this time, Traywick and his family are still unaware of what rule or who he is allegedly conspiring with.
Upon being placed in solitary confinement for such bogus reasons, Traywick went on a hunger strike on April 11, 2019, and remains on strike until a set of five demands is met, including the demand that he no longer be threatened by ADOC and that he be transferred from Limestone Correctional Facility.
Unheard Voices OTCJ declares that ADOC has connected Kenneth Traywick with the founders Nyesha Jones, due to a past relationship, and Aaron Traywick, who was Kenneth Traywick’s brother. However, Kenneth Traywick has never participated in or with Unheard Voices OTCJ to the extent of breaking any laws or ADOC rules.
ADOC is retaliating against Unheard Voices OTCJ through Kenneth Traywick in order to silence the outside group. Unheard Voices OTCJ refuses to pull back from their mission to expose agencies like ADOC, and Kenneth Traywick has asked that we continue to expose, and we do so by letting the press and public know what ADOC is doing at this time.
April 22 update
Our friend Kenneth Traywick (No. 177252) has been admitted into the infirmary at Limestone CF due to his hunger strike, now in its 12th day.
On April 11, 2019, Traywick was placed in solitary confinement allegedly under investigation for “conspiracy to violate” an institutional rule. Recognizing his placement in lock-up was for bogus reasons, Traywick began a hunger strike.
On April 21, the Alabama Department of Corrections placed an IV in Traywick against his will to “force feed” him. He has made it clear that he will continue to hunger strike once off of the IV.
His demands are as follows:
1. ADOC must remove any and all disciplinaries against me (Kenneth Traywick) received from Warden Jimmy Patrick on April 11, 2019.
2. Limestone Correctional Facility must end the unconstitutional use of the bucket detail practice at Limestone with belly chains, shackles, handcuffs and tape. (See http://tinyurl.com/adocbucketdetail.)
3. Limestone Correctional Facility must end the illegal use of C Dorm, i.e. placing inmates in segregation without any disciplinaries and refusing to give them the 45 minutes of exercise outside the cell.
4. That I (Kenneth Traywick) be transferred from Limestone Correctional Facility and that the ADOC must stop the retaliatory transfers of me from facility to facility making it impossible for me to participate in educational and rehabilitative programs (I’ve been transferred over 8 times in 2 years).
5. That ADOC refrain from retaliating against me (Kenneth Traywick) for the actions of the outside organization Unheard Voices OTCJ
On March 26, 2019, Kenneth Traywick was transferred out of general population at a level 4 facility to Limestone Correctional Facility (level 5) –without an infraction or explanation–where he was placed in segregation with no disciplinary for one week. We know that upon returning to general population as the result of a successful hunger strike, Traywick, alongside other confined citizens, began informing others at Limestone of their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. In response, Captain Langford informed Robert E. Council that Warden DeWayne Estes and Assistant Warden Jimmy Patrick ordered that Council and Traywick stop posting flyers. (For more context, see: https://tinyurl.com/yxbqtv79 )
Hidden truths about the Alabama Department of Corrections
Recently you may have read articles about Alabama’s prisons that were published by USA Today, Time Magazine or others. If so, you probably read that the Alabama Department of Corrections attempted to hinder the Department of Justice investigation of ADOC that was launched in October of 2016, and where the Department of Justice declared that ADOC had deliberately attempted to write off three homicides within the ADOC as deaths by “natural causes.”
This may come as a shock to you, but it’s a horrific reality to the tens of thousands of men confined behind what is being called the “most dangerous” prison system in the nation.
Yes, it may be a fact that Alabama has the highest homicide rate in America, as well as the highest suicide rate. But what is hidden – what has not been reported – are the root causes behind those statistics.
Could it be that the very things that Commissioner Jefferson Dunn and others in ADOC are keeping secret and covering up contribute to these facts? And why is it that you, the taxpayer, have refused to believe brothers like Swift Justice and Kinetik Justice that these things occur on a daily basis?
Let’s take a look at a perfect example of an injustice that occurs without notice to the public due to the fact that ADOC is not held accountable:
On March 25, 2019, a confined citizen by the name of Christopher Caldwell was taken from Decatur Work Release Center to Limestone Correctional Facility where he would be forced to live a five day nightmare of torture and abuse.
Limestone Correctional Facility is the home of the infamous Capt. Patrick Robinson, who over many years of no oversight has created, practiced and implemented many policies that blatantly disregard the constitutional rights of those unfortunate enough to traverse the back gate of Limestone. Many of these policies are so horrific that few employed agree to carry out or participate in the acts.
Now you may ask: If these acts are so horrific, why is it that those who refuse to practice or participate also do not report what’s going on behind what has become known as the “Iron Curtain” of ADOC? That is a good question.
On March 25, 2019, once Caldwell crossed the back gate at Limestone, he was subjected to a thorough property and body cavity search, a metal detector and drug dogs. After that he was placed in solitary where he again was subjected to another body cavity and property search.
Once this was completed, Sgt. Lovett and Officers Rollette and Johnson placed him in leg shackles, belly chain and handcuffs. They then proceeded to tape Caldwell’s pant legs, the waist band of his pants, and his shirt sleeves in order to prevent any object from entering or falling from inside his clothing.
Then his hands were attached to a metal ring in the center of the belly chain preventing him from lifting his hands higher than waist level. Caldwell was then instructed by Lovett that he would remain in these restraints and taped until he “shit” six times. ADOC calls this practice “shitting in the bucket” allegedly ensuring the retrieval of contraband from a prisoner’s rectum. [A similar process to humiliate and torture prisoners in California, called “potty watch,” was bitterly protested a few years ago and seems to have been abandoned. – ed.]
Caldwell was then placed in a cell that had no running water (a dry cell) by himself and without the means to freely move around, urinate, eat, drink or do normal human basic necessities. Caldwell was left in this cell for five days where he was not allowed to shower, even after he was forced to urinate on himself on more than one occasion.
Caldwell on numerous occasions attempted to get help from correctional officers on duty when needing to relieve himself but his pleas for help were either ignored or answered with threats to spray him with mace.
Caldwell is by no means the only one to have endured this experience. Daniel Bolden (No. 254848) was another of many who lived this nightmare. Bolden told us that the two main things he cannot erase from his mind is the fact that he had to eat his food like a dog because he could not feed himself due to being handcuffed, and the fact he had to lie in his own feces and urine for hours.
Limestone Correctional Facility is known for its unimaginable torture and dehumanizing tactics. This is the very prison that was declared to be violating the Eighth Amendment rights of confined citizens years ago when the federal courts said the use of the “hitching post” was unconstitutional in Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730 (2002).
The “hitching post” at that time was used as a punishment, where men were handcuffed to a pole for hours without water or the ability to use the restroom. Now, today, Limestone is reinventing the “hitching post” and calling it the “bucket detail.”
Now, why is the “bucket detail” being used? What is its purpose and what does it accomplish?
We anticipate ADOC to defend the use of this horrific tactic by saying “we are preventing drugs from entering the prison.” We in return would rebut that by showing how this is simply an excuse used in order to perform a sadistic act.
Christopher Caldwell had no history of drug use or drug smuggling in the ADOC, so what prompted ADOC to force him to be dehumanized with the “bucket detail” torture tactic? And even if he had been suspected of smuggling drugs, where is the logic in utilizing such tactics as full body restraints, duct tape, starvation, denial of showers, toilets, water and basic hygiene? Is ADOC claiming there are no other humane ways to monitor and prevent drug smuggling?
In Hope v. Pelzer, the “hitching post” tactic as a form of punishment was considered by the federal courts to be “unnecessarily and wantonly inflicting pain” and was thus a clear Eighth Amendment violation. The so-called “bucket detail” offends contemporary concepts of decency, human dignity and precepts of civilization which the American people profess to possess. In essence, the methods employed offend a sense of justice.
This in itself is only one story of what one man endured. However, more have come forward with the same horrible details, such as Kenneth S. Traywick (No. 177252) and Daniel Bolden (No. 254848). Many others have admitted to being done this way but express fear of retaliation if they come forward.
Unheard Voices OTCJ can be reached at Unheardvoices78@gmail.com or 903-746-7002, Nikki Davenport of the FAM Queen Team at 256-221-7658 and Mei Azaad at firstname.lastname@example.org.