Sunday, October 31, 2010

2010 REPORT ON how to make seg better with no money

Forum For Understanding Prisons (FFUP)
a 501c3 non profit
James Greer, Director
DOC health Services
PO Box 7925, Madison, WI 53707

Senator Lena Taylor
PO Box 7882
Madison, WI 53707

Report on Conditions in CCI segregation Units and
Prisoners’ suggestions for improvement
September 5, 2010
Since the beginning of my work with prisoners I have had a special place in my heart for the mentally ill in our system, many who find themselves perpetually in segregation, and now count among the people I most admire, those prisoners who have been able to gain enough insight into themselves and their situation to get out and stay out of the “hole.” Over the years I have kept an open mailbox for prisoners in trouble and had brief spurts of actual FFUP programs for them, but I am now getting too many desperate cries for help and have no more to offer them. I am writing to ask for your help.
After one restless night I came up with the idea of eliciting from several of the most at risk seg prisoners, a list of doable, not expensive improvements. I told them I would do a report to “the powers” and we would push to get the suggestions enacted.
I don’t think I need to go into graphic details of conditions in our seg units and I have written both of you many times on this issue- we all know responsibility lies squarely at the feet of that amorphous entity “the American People.” We closed our mental hospitals and provided no alternatives and gave the prisons no tools to deal with inevitable influx of the people unable to abide by Society’s or the prison’s rules. I am not looking to blame here, I am looking both for short term solutions and a beginning of a dialog between those enduring the conditions and those who can make some difference in those conditions. I know there are many lawsuits out there and I hope this is another way to make a difference.
I will list the suggestions made by prisoners, put in appropriate quotes from their letters, insert my notes and then add some of my own suggestions. All letters are available in original form if you would like to read them. I hope you will take this effort seriously, for I do believe the prisoners in seg will cooperate to the best of their ability if they believe they are being listened to.
Contents:Ideas discussed in next pages:
-Doable soon, not systemic problems
1) Make list of books available from the library and make sure prisoner in seg have access to it.
2) Allow seg prisoners to give their magazines and periodicals to other seg prisoners
3) Book Donation and mentoring program for segregation
4) Separate predatory high functioning prisoners from the vulnerable mentally ill.
5) Duration of seg steps should changed to be like those at WCI
6) Importance of hygiene items for indigent prisoners

-Systemic problems- discussed at end.

Practical Solutions that take little or no money
A)Books, educational materials, tutors, magazines
Prisoners have little or nothing to do all day. Books on the seg cart are the worst of the lot, often falling apart. Many people complained that they are not given a list of the books that are in the library, so they do not know what to order. Another prisoner says the prisoners often have to destroy their periodicals after reading them and are not allowed to give them to another prisoner although many mentally ill cannot read so magazines are important.
Some quotes about books and programs:
“Right now they are doing groups for us on DS – 1 , DS-2 and HU- 7, DS-1 groups were just started earlier this year and they have started doing more on DS-2 and HU-7. They have also begun getting guys out for 30 minutes or so a week to listen to books on tape, but there is not much time for that. They also hand out puzzles on request to whomever wants them. Right now what we need is some educational stuff. They currently offer nothing educational for us except for guys under age 18.”

“If we could some people to take some time to teach seg inmates or set up some in-cell study, that would be very helpful for us . Materials on exercises we can do in our cells or in the rec pens outside would also be very beneficial.”

“The way we order books we fill out an interview request form for what books you want but because there’s no list we don’t know what book this prison has we wait about 2 or 3 days we get our books but 90% of the time you don’t get the books you asked for. They just changed the rules we can no longer get books with hard covers so our selection of books just dropped. We can only order 2 at a time and sometimes they will send books that are 150 pages long. I’ve finish that in a few hours.”

“There are 2 programs books on tape but I’ve been on the waiting list and don’t think I’ll get on for a few months. The second group is with clinical but we talk about nothing for an hour.”
1)Make list of books available from the library and make sure prisoner in seg have access to it.
2)Allow seg prisoners to give their magazines and periodicals to other seg prisoners, either by giving them to the library or have an exchange program right there on the seg unit. Many of the mentally ill cannot read and are in special need of magazines
3) Book Donations for segregation
Allow cooperation between the outside community and prison programming/ library staff to facilitate Donations of books to segregation units/carts at first, then the program could expand to donations for general library. I could get lists of subjects wanted from prisoners and then Books to Prisoners, a Madison group, as well as churches and community groups would work with us on this project. The librarian or program coordinator would need permission to work with me as I have tried this on my own unsuccessfully before.
4) Mentoring program tailored to seg : Allow cooperation between the outside community and prison programming/education staff to facilitate a friends/mentoring program. There can always be mentoring between a “free “person and prisoner through the mail and we have tried informal programs but what we need to make this work is permission to send in used books or access to learning materials within the prison. Mentoring on any scale quickly becomes unfeasible because of the burden of having to photocopying all learning material.
What seems to work the best with the segregation prisoners is friendly letters combined with reading material , possibly lessons on subjects of interest. The friendship gives the seg prisoner incentives to learn how to manage his anger and panic attacks and to see the wider picture. I am always amazed at how powerful caring and kindness is in bringing about changes in behavior. I think the prisoner needs to believe there is a way out of his torment and the outside friend helps him to believe in himself and the future..

B)Separate predatory high functioning prisoners from the vulnerable mentally ill.
It seems what one prisoner calls “high functioning prisoners” prey on the vulnerable mentally ill and “get” them to act out, hurt themselves and others. The guards have no adequate tools to deal with these situations and may join in the taunting and general mayhem , or intervene with heavy handed traumatizing mace or cell interventions that just make the prisoner escalate more.
I will paste here a listing from a letter. I do not agree that all high functioning and mentally ill should be separated. I think an astute well meaning guards could tell the difference between a prisoner who could perhaps be a model , and one that simply is bored and getting his kicks from manipulating a confused neighbor. I had received letters about many of these incidents, however never was informed of the dynamics behind the behavior.
– A. swallowed a toenail clipper and a finger nail clipper because the high functioning inmate talked him into it out of spite so he could get a laugh out of it.
B. was convinced into shoving a inhaler pump up his butt by a highfunctioning inmate just so the hallway could have a few laughs.
- A high functioning inmate talks C. into smearing fecal matter all over his room then they convinced his into eating it making him sick.. D. was harassed so much, he smashed his t.v. into pieces..H was talked into eating his own fecal matter and shoving pens up his penis forcing guards to gas him and extract him from his cell .E. was talked into smearing fecal matter covering his window and making them extract him. By luck he was not hurt.
F. has battered many guards and he is easily manipulate into acting out he smashed his t.v. made them suit up and grabbed a piece of plastic and held it as a weapon this is all over a high functioning inmate lying to him.
G. attacked 3 guards on 3 different times because high functioning inmates told him to.
Also H. would make them suit up all you had to tell him was I’m going to make them suit up too but once they suited up on H. the high functioning while laughing did not make them suit up…I. cut himself and swallowed toenail clipper, pieces of metal, toenail clippers, he broke the camera swallowed as many pieces as possible before the guards got to him
This is an Abuse – this game of ‘big I little you’ These high functioning inmates taking advantage of these inmates with mental illnesses. The guards see and hear this abuse but do nothing. They hear these inmates talking the inmates with mental inmates into acting out and the mentally ill still get in trouble. This is cruel and unusual punishment toward the mentally ill inmates and these high functioning inmates can also talk inmate into killing themselves. This has to stop. Mentally ill inmates cannot and should not be housed around inmates that are high functioning.
Note: again, I think all high functioning prisoners are not sadistic- some can be models and can help the confused. The guards could be enlisted to help weed out and separate those high functioning prisoners who enjoy making mahem .

C) Duration of seg steps should change to be like those at WCI.
Summation: Step three inmates should be allowed to have both tv and radio. And time on step one and two should be like Waupun, even if you are administrative confinement= 30 days on step one and 30 days on step two.
This prisoner has the best explanation. He also talks about the availability of tvs for seg prisoners, which should be noted.
“One major change that needs to be made is the way CCI’s segregation ‘step’ process works. Here it consists of 3 ‘steps’ ( 1, 2, and 3). I think the privileges/incentives of each step is adequate. It’s the duration I have a problem with. At CCI it works like this : When an inmate recieves their seg time they spend 1/3 of their time on each step. On step 3 you get the opportunity to come out to the dayroom twice a week for an hour to use the phone, watch tv, play cards and converse with other step 3 inmates. You also have the privilege of having either your personal tv or radio in your cell (not both, which I disagree with. On step 3 in Waupun you can have both) . It is a concern that guys without their own tv and/or radio won’t get one. CCI does have loaners that inmates may borrow, usually old tv/radio combos that inmates have donated or DOC has confiscated (usually unjustly) but I’m not sure whether seg inmates can get a loaner. I do know that only SMU inmates get loaners, meaning only units 6 and 7 where they have most of the more seriously mentally ill inmates. But I’ve digressed.
Back to my issue with duration of the steps. Usually, whatever amount of seg time a person gets, it is cut in half so an inmate only actually does half of the actual sentence. However, if they place someone on Administrative Confinement Tracking” the seg time is not cut in half and means that the inmate will be referred for A.C. Tracking (such as myself) are doing 360 days of seg.. Therefore they have to wait eight months to get their tv or radio. I think Waupuns’s 3 step program is better in that step 3 inmates can have both their tv and radio and no matter how much seg time you get, you do 30 days on step 1, then 30 days on step 2 and the rest on step 3. I think that is a much more reasonable way to do it and would propose to have it done this way at CCI as well. Note: Waupun used to do it like CCI’s current program but changed it to the 30 days on step l and 2 for everyone at the end of 2007.”

D) Family and friends be allowed to buy hygiene items for prisoners from canteen or the same vendors from which they buy envelopes and paper . Hygiene and especially Deodorant seems to be a big item with all prisoners and an especially difficult problem for the prisoners who have a legal loan and are indigent_ i.e.all money sent to them by friends and families goes toward the loan. Plus the prison does not allow family to buy hygiene items for prisoners. I am told that some prisoners in seg will not leave seg because they lack deodorant and “hygiene.” The prisoner supplies soap and toothpaste etc,( the prisoners say quality is laughable. )I have checked this out with general population prisoners, about harassment because of smells etc and got conflicting responses. For some of the more vulnerable, it is a big item . As are shower shoes. I work with a lot of prisoners who are indigent on legal loan and I suggest much stress and conflict could be avoided if the prison could be flexible about allowing the prisoner enough money for personal items. One seg prisoner suggests a fund for hygiene items be set up into which community members could contribute. FFUP could do that if hygiene items could then be bought for prisoner from vendors.
“Then you got people making fun pissing me off to the point that I start kicking on the door, covering my window, just to get moved to a different area. If the institution would have a program that indigent inmates can get once a month hygiene and shower shoes people would act different. I owe $1,900 and they take 100% of everything that comes in. I have to ask people for hygiene because I can’t buy it myself or they could let us buy it from J.L. Marcus where our families can pick some up.
This is one reason a lot of people stay in segregation because they know it will be too embarrassing not to have anything, especially hygiene so people will intentionally catch c.r. just to stay in segregation.
But if there was a program in place where you could have people on the streets picking up deodorants, soap, toothpaste, tooth brush, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, foot cream, toenail clippers, fingernail clippers, floss,… I bet you a lot of the people who have mental disorders who have the type of restitution will not have a problem going to g.p.”

Systemic problems
As a group they came up with these overriding problems and important suggestions:
1) Give the prisoners a voice to communicate directly with the warden and programs staff so that the prisoners could articulate their mistreatment at the hands of low level staff.
2) The main problems are a lot of prisoners are over medicated and this causes bizarre behavior/acting out.
3) Next the all white staff have no training when it come to dealing with other racial groups – this lack of diversity is the #1 cause of problems at every level of the system.

From Individuals and my own experience:
1)These prisoners and almost any prisoner you ask will tell you one of the biggest problems is the complaint system. Having an independent inmate complaint review committee would change level of prisoner life for the better.
Put Succinctly: “Next what would help us the most is the ICI system being put to private people. When we file complaints about anything it’s dismissed and if we are in serious danger it’s still dismissed. Why? The reason our ICIs are always dismissed is because the people handling the ICI are related to the people who we are complaining about and or they are friends of the people we are complaining about so our ICIs will always get dismissed as long as you have the relatives of the staff handling the complaints. This will help us out the most.”
Note : by “put to private people”I believe he means people from the community who are not related to any guards or prisoners. FFUP calls that “community control of Corrections “ And I can see a community group for each prison which works with the prison and has an active voice.

2) I was just starting this work when the Supermax lawsuit was being settled and mentally ill prisoners were no longer allowed there. Since then I have been dealing with many of the prisoners transferred from Supermax who are now in arguably worse conditions.
From seg prisoners: The following inmates have mental illnesses and should not be in segregation: 21 prisoners listed.

Practical Suggestions form my experience that would insert accountability into the system:
1) The Conduct report for “lying About Staff” should be eliminated in cases of seg abuse. I have been involved in advocating in cases where inmates informed me of abuse and because of my calls , were put in seg for “lying about staff.” In one case the “abused or not abused” prisoner was whisked away without photographs of his wounds to WSPF . There was no question that an altercation occurred; the question was who instigated the uproar and whether the force used was appropriate. “Lying about staff” conduct report was used here solely as a retaliatory tool against an inmate who was trying to help. I can see that CR use only in rare cases where an obvious story was made up by a prisoner but it is now used in main to intimidate witnesses of scenes that may or may not be abusive but are traumatic. What is excessive should not be left to guard discretion and questions of appropriate force need to be discussed.
2) Photographs should be taken of all injuries, guards and prisoners, when there is an incident, as soon after the incident as possible. At present, it seemed sporadic, the prisoners tell me the guards injuries are always photographed, sometimes the prisoners.’
3) More cameras should be placed in strategic areas in seg units and closed enough to normal activities so action is close enough to be discerned. Making it possible for prisoners and guards alike to prove their contentions would go long way to increase accountability and trust in the system. The present system where the guard is always believed and the prisoners seldom, has been a disaster in more ways than this little report can contain.
4) Continuing with the suggestions above, Guards needs to be trained in dealing with the mentally ill and sensitivity training needs to be given for dealing with Hispanics and Blacks- cultural differences between communities need to be taught. Most human interactions are enhanced by feelings of empathy between the participants. The guards need to be trained to see prisoners as fellow human beings, worthy of empathy. The spectrum of allowable guard responses is so small that at minimum they need to be trained in understanding what the prisoner is doing.
5) Job fairs need to be held in Milwaukee and real effort made to recruit Blacks and Hispanics as prison staff. I agree with the prisoners in their suggestions above, that at root of our prison problems is the fact that there are few members of minorities as staff in a system that is overwhelmingly Black and Hispanic .
And with that, I will finish this listing with an absurd and touching suggestion from one prisoner: A program of hugs>Or is that really so absurd?
“Ms. Swan I have not had human contact in 13 years I’m going crazy. There should be a program that we can get hugs- just one hug will make us feel like we are alive again . Human contact. That’s all I want . So much time in seg has turned me into an empty shell- this does this to you – it takes away the last bit of humanity that you have fought to retain for so long.”

I believe the Department of Corrections needs to honestly and openly confront the public about its burgeoning mentally ill population. If the public is unwilling to offer treatment outside of prison,it must adequately fund guard training, treatment facilities, programs and mental health staff within the prisons. In order to do that we need accurate diagnoses of our out of control citizens, not demonizing sound bite definitions. The DOC needs to recognize and admit publicly and loudly that it needs help with this problem.

Peg Swan: FFUP member
29631 Wild Rose Drive; Blue River, WI 53518

Warden Greg Grams; CCI;Rick Raemisch, Secretary of Corrections;Governor Doyle
Representative Grisgby; Representative Parisi; Representaitve Garthwaite
Members of Prison Ministry and Wisconsin CURE
Members of Madison Urban Ministry; other in activist community

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