Monday, December 11, 2017

Contact TDCJ Ombudsman on behalf of Philippe Rivera!!!

We have received this report from Philippe Rivera from the Allred Unit and he has asked us to pass on his message below and requested that we ask people to contact the TDCJ Ombudsman on his behalf. 
 

I wrote up a complaint concerning either stolen or missing personal property of mines that got tooken away from me because I weren't allowed to have at time in possession due to level status.  It were suppose to be stored in Barry Telford Unit's Ad-Seg Property Room Department at time it got confiscated on Thursday October 20, 2016.  Yet, After being reassigned to another prison, all my personal property got transferred except for confiscated items that were suppose to be stored, items were: Radio-Clock with Headphones Clear Tech, Commissary Headphones and Coax Cable.  Thats it.  The security officer who took it and issue me confiscated notification paper is Mr. Baldelamar, C.

I've written several I-60 forms to all Property Room Departments from both prisons at James Allred Unit and Barry Telford Unit in an attempt to get this problem formally resolve but the officials all keep telling me "I'll check on it" or just give me excuses or run-arounds.  I've even filed a Step 1 and 2 grievance complaint in reference to this matter and both grievance responses were, in quote, stated:

Grievance #2017046542
"The investigation to this grievance is complete.  Your property came to the Allred Unit, and it was delivered to you on 12/7/16.  There is not any other property for you at the Allred Unit or at the Telford Unit.  No further action will be taken."

Grievance #2017046542
"Your Step 1 grievance investigation and response has been reviewed by this office and found to be appropriate and correct.  An investigation was conducted and found no evidence to substantiate your claims that you are missing property that was confiscated from you at the Telford Unit due to being an Ad-Seg level offender as you allege.  Be advised that having previously owned any item(s) of personal property is not evidence that you were in possession of that item(s) at the time your property was collected by staff.  No evidence is found that TDCJ is responsible for your alleged missing property.  No further action warranted."

Grievance #2017054557
"Information received from Property Officer J. Hughes reveals your property was shipped to your new unit of assignment on MST#1427312.  No further action warranted."

Grievance #2017054557
"A review of your Step 2 grievance was conducted and there is no evidence that shows TDCJ staff responsible for any alleged missing property.  No further action warranted."

Now I have the only copy of the confiscated notification sheet that were given to me by that security officer.  I showed it to the property room officers here in Allred Unit and they done nothing but told me that they check on it and have no control over replacements in case of stolen or loss of personal property of mines is they can not recover or locate it.  Even the high ranking security supervisors won't do nothing.  The Assistant Warden of this facility advised me that theres nothing they can do about it unless I have outside support to file complaints to the ombudsman department at Huntsville, Texas to report in behalf of me concerning thief of property.

Please contact the TDCJ Ombudsman by sending a letter requesting Philippe get his property returned!!!

TDCJ Ombudsman
P.O. Box 99
Hunstville, TX 77342-0099

You can also show support and solidarity by sending Philippe a letter or Holiday Card!

 

PLEASE WRITE! NEW PENPALS NEED MAIL!

PAPS would like to introduce some inmates who have just joined our penpal program!

Joe Joe Bowen





Nicole Childress




Derrick Washington


Philippe Rivera

 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS by TDCJ at Allred Unit Ad-Seg! - written by: Vanessa Gibson



PAPS received a letter from Vanessa Gibson, a trans prisoner in Texas incarcerated at the Allred Unit.  She asked us to post this letter to our blog and also asked that people file complaints on her behalf!  Please help Vanessa by filing a 3rd Party complaint with TDCJ.  We will include information on how to do this at the bottom underneath Vanessa's letter.  If you have any further questions please contact us:

PAPS
(512) 710-PAPS
iheartpaps@gmail.com


LETTER FROM VANESSA
Today the guards beat a friend of mine.  They ran the 5 man extraction team in on him.  When they knocked him to the ground they started punching him in his face, slamming his head on the concrete and one guard was intentionally and maliciously trying to pull his eyes out!

The guards on the Allred Unit, especially the ones that work in Ad-Seg have an extensive history of beating inmates, starving inmates, encouraging inmates to commit suicide and they recently pulled an
inmates eyeball out!

I know society thinks criminals are all bad people but do we deserve to be treated like this?  The guards intentionally create a conflict like writing us bogus cases, denying us our food, etc. so they can beat us and mistreat us!  I have witnessed guards tell prisoners- we love to run the team- it is fun to beat dumbass inmates!  The guards actually get a thrill out of running the team on us so they can beat the shit out of us!  Alot of times the guards that creates the problem
are the ones that will be on the team!  An they openly tell us:  Don't catch that pussy when we came!

The Rank allows the guards to mistreat us and regardless if we have proof that the guard was lying, etc.  The Rank will not have no understanding because that is his co-worker and TDCJ's motto is
"taking care of our own".

The abuse that is occurring on the unit is excessive force and it is being done for recreational purposes!

The following list is the type of abuse the guards are using to torture and terrify prisoners:

1.  When the team is used- Regardless if the inmate is resisting they
will punch, choke, try to break the inmates legs, arms, and fingers,
and intentionally slam the inmates head on the ground, and try to pull
the inmates eyes out.

2.  The Rank is praying inmates in their face with chemical agents
while they are in handcuffs, shackled, and on the ground.

3.  If an inmate is depressed or suicidal. guards tell them "the only
way I'm calling psych is if you cut or hang yourself" they do this so
they can spray the inmate.

4.  They are putting us in cells that is ice cold with no clothes,
blankets, etc.  So we will have to suffer,

5.  They are jacking us for our food

It is my profound hope that you will help us by filing complaints,
calling state representatives, etc.

The Rank has repeatedly threatened to cross me out and to Fuck me off if I don't stop filing complaints.  They have done crossed me out and denied me my blood pressure medication for 5 days and confiscated my few books and dictionaries to attempt to stop me from exposing their
corruption!

As you know guards have already threatened to murder me, hope that I suffer and encouraged me to castrate myself!  What do they have to murder me or severely hurt me before any action is taken?!!

I know together we have the power to shut this abuse down!  Not only on the Allred Unit, but all over TDCJ!  It is documented that guards all over TDCJ are beating and torturing inmates.  When is enough enough!  I'm sick of watching this abuse!  It makes me cry and so mad to see the guards hurt my friends that are just fighting a corrupt and oppressive system that is designed to break us, to torture us and to murder us!

I won't lie to you I hate these pigs!

I hate the system so much it give me the strength and the courage to stand up and fight back and to tell the ones that want to hurt me- Fuck you! I'm not going to shut up and I don't care what you do!

But at the same time, I'm not a fool!  LOL!  Thats why I continuously ask for your support because really you are the only protection I have and it would mean a lot to me if you will help me help all the inmates on the Allred Unit!

Thank you!

Love, V

The person I mention here is:  Jamal Alexander 1655384


How to File 3rd Party Complaints with TDCJ

Family Member or Third Party Complaints

Complaints from third parties concerning medical services are investigated by the TDCJ Patient Liaison Program. The Patient Liaison Program is open to third party inquiries regarding health care for offenders. Staff in that office investigate and participate in the resolution of complaints, allegations and concerns about the health care of TDCJ offenders. Persons filing complaints with the Patient Liaison Program should be aware that medical confidentiality protections apply. In most cases involving an individual offender's health care, a valid Authorization for Release of Information must be obtained from the offender before details of an offender's health care can be shared.
Note: Due to patient confidentiality issues, e-mail inquiries and responses are not permitted.
Complaints may be addressed to the Patient Liaison Office by:
Mailing written correspondence to:
TDCJ Patient Liaison Program
Health Services Division
PO Box 99
Huntsville, TX 77340
Telephone inquiries to:
TDCJ Patient Liaison Office at (936) 437-4271



ANOTHER WAY TO HELP IS BY SENDING VANESSA LETTER OF SUPPORT OR A HOLIDAY CARD!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Bad Karma- written by: Comrade Malik

Bad Karma
By Keith ‘Comrade Malik’ Washington

You were vested with authority in order to oversee and care for those whose lives had become a bust.
Instead of sustenance and care you traumatized, degrade, and dehumanized your charges, blatantly violating the public’s trust.
For years I observed you—patiently I waited behind the scenes.
You grew arrogant and cocky—puffed up with pride—thinking it was ok to mistreat society’s throw-aways and discarded humyn beings.
When the vulnerable cried out for Justice—you cleaned up the crime scenes and pretended as if the deaths were accidents, always claiming the Agency did no wrong.
We let you get away and as a result you became very confident that weak indigent prisoners could never overcome the strong.
But perceptions of the oppressors are just subjective feelings not always based on FACT.
Your crimes have caught up with you now and No Power in this world can ever Hold us Back!
Did you really believe you’d get away after hurting all these innocent people? No recompense, no pay back, totally scot-free??
Not so fast STATE of Texas I have something very special for the media and the public to see!!
What you dished out will be given back in dividends—10 times worse in the END.
My name is BAD Karma and I’m definitely not your friend.
Remember the elderly and disabled at Estelle you allowed them to be beat-I was there.
Remember when we asked Senator Whitmire to intervene—he said he didn’t CARE!
Remember when we asked if the water at Pack I was poison—you said it was ok.
Remember the suicides which were actually murders—you took our sons, brothers, husbands, fathers brutally away!
Well, all those things are catching up with you Gregg; are you ready, it is now Judgement Day.
I won’t announce when I’m coming bust surely I will Arrive.
I’m Bad Karma; isn’t Destiny Great don’t you feel blessed to be Alive?
Well it’s over—you’ve been found out—you most certainly did nothing great.
I’m Bad Karma, here to show the world what happens to Government officials who make a living sowing seeds of HATE!

This poem is dedicated to Benjamin LaRue, a mentally ill prisoner and friend of Malik who recently was found dead in his cell at the Eastham Ad-seg unit in Lovelady Texas

Suicide at Eastham Unit

 PAPS received this message from Malik Johnson regarding the suicide of his "next door neighbor" in Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Eastham Unit located in Lovelady, Texas.  We are asking for everyone to send a card and or letter to Malik to let him know our sympathy is with him during this difficult time.  We will post more information as it becomes available.
 
Greetings Everyone! I’m very sad to report that my next door neighbor Benjamin Larue AKA “Ben” committed suicide last night here at Eastham. Ben was a very young white male 24 or 25 years old. He only had a 3 year sentence!! And now he is gone. Needless to say, I am very upset because I saw the signs of depression and I failed to Act. He just had a visit yesterday!! I thought he was OK. I was wrong.
The officer on duty was not doing his security checks! I will be writing a detailed essay about this death. These people neglected Ben. They knew he was troubled (mentally ill). They ignored him!! No matter what T.D.C.J. says Ad-seg is still as form of solitary confinement and it is no place for anyone but especially for those who have been diagnosed with mental illness!!
Eastham Ad-seg unit is a Torture & Abuse camp! Although I may sound upset, I am strong and my resolve to expose and fight against abuse & injustice is strengthened.
His name was Benjamin LaRue and his life mattered!!

In Solidarity
Malik

Thursday, November 2, 2017

"Dope Zombies"- Written by: Spencer Butler

Today I'm going to talk about Zombies.

Dope Zombies are people that have little to no sanity, poor health, and hygiene, a very distant look in their eyes, a continuous never changing smile, they survive on very little food, will trade anything and everything they own and will steal, kill, lie and cheat just to get more dope.

Here in the Texas Department of Criminal In-justice that dope is K2.  Also known as spice, deuce, fake weed and many other names.  It is known to cause hallucinations, sickness, poverty and even death but many continue to smoke and drink (a tea can be made with it) it.  Another side effect is a passive Zombie trance, which paralyzes the body and mind and the prison guards all the way to top ranking prison bureaucrats know this which is how and why the dope gets into prison.

The Texas Department of Criminal In-justice knows that if the inmates brains are dead and physically unable to stand up to the prison system then there will be no resistance and the system will then have complete control.  The Texas Department of Criminal In-justice also knows that these Zombies will sell everything they have to get this dope and when the Zombies have nothing left to sell they will then steal from other inmates items they can trade for the dope therefor causing a fight between the Dope Zombie and the Inmate they stole from, which furthers a lack of resistance to the system and the Texas Department of Criminal In-justice sits back watching and laughing as we fight each other.

This is no different than outside the prison walls when the government supplies and manufactures the drugs that control the people and keeps them on a short leash, so there is no resistance.  This has been going on for decades from the crack in the ghettos to the crystal meth in the trailer parks.

Its all a form of government control and tit will continue as long as we allow it to.

Several years ago I was one of these Dope Zombies and it cost me a 60 year prison sentence, but shortly after my prison sentence began I found the anti-dope/anti-dote and I have been De-Zombified ever since.

If I can do it, anyone can do it then everyone can do it and if everyone can do it then we can all shake off the chains of control and oppression and make our lives once again our lives.  The Texas Department of Criminal In-justice may currently have our bodies but that doesn't mean we have to give them our minds and our souls!

Resist!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

PAPS on The Empire Files

Azzurra Crispino of PAPS talks about Hurricane Harvey on The Empire Files.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

New Essays written by Malik Washington!

From: Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
TDCJ #1487958

​Beto Unit
1391 FM 3328
Tennessee Colony, TX 75880


 
Toxic Contaminated Water Alert at Eastham Unit (Lovelady, Texas)
Call For Action!  
By Keith Malik Washington

Greetings sisters and brothers!

    As man of you know South-East Texas was bombarded by Hurricane Harvey recently, and 500 prisoners located in Rosharon Texas were displaced because of flooding.  C.T Terrell is very similar to Wallace Pack Unit in that they house prisoners who are predominantly elderly, infirm, and disabled.
    Eastham Unit located in Lovelady, Texas was chosen to house the displaced prisoners.  Many prisoners have read about or heard of the ongoing problems with Eastham’s water supply, but on Wednesday, August 30, 2017, they got a first hand look at what many Eastham prisoners have suffered through for years!  Contaminated water!
    It started out as strange debris floating in the water - then without warning, we were told the water was being shut off and the pumps had broke!  The water pressure had dropped and historically when water pressure drops, high levels of bacteria enter the system and boil notices are issues!  Shut off time was 12:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Aug 30, 2017.  Turned back on Wednesday night, 10:30 p.m. I am sending out a call for help and action!  We need phone calls to be made to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality employees:
Brian Buster - (936) 437-7285
Frank Inmon - (936) 437-7200 / (cell) (936) 577-4035

We need you to inquire and find out exactly what the problem is with the water system at Eastham Unit and demand answers (unit # is 936-636-7321)  Safe and clean water is a Humyn Right!  All power to the people!

-Comrade Malik



We Must Expose The Liars Who Operate Texas Prisons!

(We must not be silent)

By: Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
Chief Spokespersyn for:
End Prison Slavery in Texas (Movement)

Revolutionary Greetings Comrades and Free World Allies!

Many of you know that during slavery times in Amerika the “Massah” who lived inside “The Big House” could have cared less about the quality of food and water his or her slaves received, or the conditions they lived in.  Slaves were given the worst of everything; which included contaminated water and the lowest quality food scraps.  They were forced to eat and drink things that most of us today would refuse to consume.
Not too much has changed inside prisons that are operated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ)

The only difference now is the “Massah” has been replaced by the prison Warden.
Recently, many family members and friends of incarcerated prisoners in Texas have noticed some impropriety coming from the TDCJ Ombudsman Office.
The ombudsman acts as a liaison between the public and TDCJ.  When a family member or friend has a complaint about the conditions their incarcerated loved one are subjected to at one of the TDCJ 110 units, they rely on the ombudsman office to not only investigate the problem, but to resolve the problem - but something has gone WRONG!

Through an analysis of the ombudsman office’s performance, many free world activists and humyn as well as civil rights activists organizations have come to the conclusion that the ombudsman office is working in consort with the TDCJ prison officials to cover up or downplay many prison conditions which are deemed to be cruel and unusual as well as inhumane.  
On the unit level, we have discovered that when people from the “outside” call the unit or inquire about the toxic water, deadly heat, or sub-par living conditions, prison officials have received a “green light” from TDCJ executive Bryan Collier to Lie and misinform the public about condiitons inside these slave kamps and gulags.

It is time we collectively come together in order to expose these liars and violators of the public’s trust.

I am committed to this work!
Will you help me?
Dare to struggle, dare to win!
All Power to The People!

Keith ‘Malik’ Washington

September 1, 2017
Subject: Protect The EARTH!

Revolutionary Greetings!

This is the Text for an upcoming You tube by Professor Justin Adkins.

Environmental Activists and Water Protectors will not be bullied or intimidated by Billionaire Earth defilers and their cronies inside the Trump Administration!!
(We must not be silent)
By Keith ‘Malik’ Washington & Justin Adkins

Revolutionary Greetings,
It is I, Justin Adkins, and I have a very serious and urgent message to delivery to you. Malik and I support and defend many causes, but there are certain struggles and fights that have a higher priority to us than others.

One such struggle is the fight to save our planet from imperialist multinational corporations which exclusively deal in the extraction of fossil fuels from the Earth.  Comrade Malik and I are both Environmentalists.  I personally introduced Malik to this struggle.

A couple of years ago, I ordered Malik a subscription to the Earth First! Journal.  That was before he was transferred to the Wallace Pack unit.  Pack is the Texas prison where Malik helped expose the presence of high levels of arsenic in the water supply.

Professor Victor Wallis Ph.D. showed Malik the connection between capitalism and the destruction of our environment and in the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.  Malik and I believe all of us got an up-front and personal look at what Environmental Racism looks like in Amerika - It’s Real!!

Now Malik performs his own studies and in depth analysis, and, as always, he has something to say to you.  I hope you will listen to the words of my comrade and friend.  

Comrade Malik says:
Revolutionary Greetings Comrades!

Energy Transfer Partners!! Yes, let’s say it together, Energy Transfer Partners!! The name tastes like a fat piece of cow dung in my mouth.

This Imperialist Corporation is the chief developer of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and they have filed a federal lawsuit against many of the groups here in Amerika who are fighting hard to save our planet and ensure safe and clean water supplies for future generations of humyn beings and animals, as well as plants and trees.  

Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas, filed the complaint and it seeks damages of no less than one billion dollars!!  I will briefly give you a list of some of the defendants who have been cited in the complaint: Earth First!, the Sierra Club, Greenpeace International, Bank Track, Bold Iowa, and Mississippi Stand.

The lawsuit alleges environmental protection groups initiated campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims and other purported misconduct, inflicting billions of dollars in damage - Now this is a direct quote from the USA Today - August 24th, 2017.  

Now STOP! Let’s listen very carefully to the language these Earth defilers are using - they are saying that WE are initiating campaigns of misinformation to target legitimate companies and industries with fabricated environmental claims.  Ok, first of all, they are lying!! And I can prove it! But first we need to fully expose their hidden agenda, because there is much more going on here than meets the eye!!

The Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas, Texas, seek to label us and eco-terrorists in an effort to criminalize and silence our Free Speech activities.

In other words, they was us to allow them to destroy our planet, poison our water supplies, pollute our air, and be quiet and watch while they do it!!

And I say Hell NO! I’m not going to do THAT! What do you say?

Now, I am a socialist/communist - I lean hard to the left and I am deeply sympathetic to the Green Anarchist cause.  I’ve been trained to apply a scientific analysis when I encounter a problem.  I seek out facts!! I shut down my emotions in order to perform a concrete analysis of the conditions around me.  The timing of the lawsuit is very interesting and I smell a RAT!

Yes! On its face, this complaint seeks to bully and intimidate environmentalists.  It seeks to cower us into silence.  But I firmly believe there is a SNAKE lurking in the background, and that dirty, rotten, scoundrel has emboldened Energy Transfer Partners.

I state today that Department of Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas, is secretly promoting this attack on our free speech rights!!

In Rick Perry’s failed presidential bid, guess who was his number one donor? Really, I want you to take a guess.  I’ll wait.  

Give up? Ok, I’ll tell you; it was Kelay Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners! Are you Surprised?

Would you like to know how much Mr. Warren donated to good old honest Rick Perry? Six million dollars!! Now listen to me, Mr. Warren got $4.5 million back after Rick Perry pulled out of the Presidential Race, but that is not the only questionable connection our buddy Rick Perry has with Energy Transfer Partners - there is more, much more!!

In a financial disclosure form Perry filed in July 2015, Perry indicated that his wife owned up to $15,000 in Energy Transfer Partners stock, and about the same amount of stock in another pipeline company, Sunco Logistics.  Sunco Logistics is supposed to be the operator of the pipeline that was being protested against at Standing Rock.  

And I have some very interesting information about Sunco Logistics.  According to Reuters, Sunco Logistics leads all of its competitors in spilled crude!!

And if anyone would to fact check any of my reporting, please go to the incredible news website truthout.org and find the article entitled: “Rick Perry, Tapped for Energy Department, Has Multiple Ties to CEO of Controversial Pipeline Project”, posted December 16, 2016 at Truth Out!!

Comrades, who was it that said, “If you want to hide something from a black man, put it in a book,”? Who the hell made up that saying? Whoever it was, they hadn’t met me! Comrade Malik, the servant of the people!!

Comrades, as I wrap up this YouTube video with my good friend, Justin, I must encourage you to be more aggressive in the expose of these unsavory relationships between fossil fuel corporations and highly placed members of the Trump Administration.

Furthermore, please be more mindful that the U.S. Federal Government is waging a war against those who seek to protect and preserve our planet.  But more urgently the Legislative Branch is overtly and covertly crafting laws which criminalize our right to protest.  

We need lawyers on our team!
We need environmental scientists on our team.
We need computer information specialists and technologists on our team!

Sisters and brothers, one of the reasons I am so passionate about this fight is that poor people, and people of color like me, are being exploited and abused by Rick Perry and his cronies in Dallas, Texas at Energy Transfer Partners!  

When you get time, I encourage you to read a brief article by David J. Krajicek on Alternet (January 23, 2016) entitled, “7 Toxic Assaults on Communities of Color Besides Flint: The Dirty Racial Politics of Pollution”.  The lead poisoning of the children in Flint is only the latest example of environmental racism in the U.S.

Remember, comrades, there is strength in diversity.  We must encourage and allow more persyns of color inside our environmentalist ranks.  Justin invited me to the table, who will you invite?  

Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win,
All Power to the People!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Eradicate the Incarceration of Persons with Mental Disabilities- Written by: Carly Janine

Eradicate the Incarceration of Persons with Mental Disabilities

Re-Posted with Permission From the Author, Carly Janine
Please visit her Blog for more posts or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Posted on
Written By: Carly Janine


Eradicate the Incarceration of Persons with Mental Disabilities

“Prisons were never intended as facilities for the mentally ill, yet that is one of their primary roles today.” – Sasha Abramsky

In 2013, I was reported missing. In the midst of a mental breakdown, I had fled town, driving northward until my truck broke down in San Leandro, in Northern California. I had thrown away my cellular phone. I had no way to get a hold of anyone and very little money. At that point in time, I had no idea that I suffered from a mental disorder. All I knew was that I had started hearing voices, became very paranoid, and thought I was some sort of a government conspiracy whistle-blower. It was terrifying and confusing, and after a week of roaming the streets, I had deteriorated to the point where everyone I encountered thought I was homeless. I attempted to rent an RV with a fake name, and when the rental place refused, I drove off their lot inside a stolen one anyway. I was trying to get to Half Moon Bay, where a friend’s mother lived, thinking I might be able to track her down somehow without a phone. Of course, I soon had a “parade” of police cars following me, with their sirens blaring and lights flashing. I was arrested and charged with three felonies, though one was immediately dropped (evading a peace officer), I still had two to deal with, but first, I went to jail.
The first night in the San Mateo County jail, they tried to put me in with the general population. I completely freaked out, and eventually they began to realize that I wasn’t on drugs (I was repeatedly asked if I was on meth) but that there was something seriously wrong. I was transferred back to medical, my clothes and bed were taken away.  I was put into this large, Velcro outfit that I couldn’t harm myself with, and I was put on suicide watch. (I realize now that I was so lucky that someone recognized my symptoms and they were able to get a psychiatrist in to interview me in the middle of the night.) I was immediately put on lithium and given a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type 1. After a few days in a solitary room on medication, I was transferred into a shared rooming facility in the medical wing. When it seemed likely that I wasn’t going to harm myself or anyone else, I was moved back into general population. I spent two weeks in jail before my mental faculties stabilized to the point where I realized I could bail myself out. The whole experience was supremely confusing, embarrassing, cost me my job and many friends. And I was one of the lucky ones. My family managed to get me a $7,000 lawyer.  I received a plea deal based on a psychiatrist interview shortly after I was released, and plead no contest to a misdemeanor of joyriding. I truly believe that had I simply signed the papers in jail for the public defender that I would have been sentenced and would have spent far longer than two weeks in San Mateo County.

My experience is far from unique. Jamie Fellner, of the Human Rights Watch, wrote that the Treatment Advocacy Center recently estimated there were 356,000 persons with mental illness behind bars. Incarceration makes mental illness worse, and prisons are unprepared to deal with the mentally ill and mental health care crisis.  While in jail, every day, I would stand in line for pill call with easily 1/3 of the population.  Solutions are needed in order to properly process and care for the mentally ill within the prison system.

There has been a lack of adequate research in determining which jails and prisons need the most help and how best to go about it. Author Seth J. Prins wanted to provide a broad view of mental illness in prisons after realizing most works cited only two federal reports from 1999 and 2006, so “the author undertook a systematic review of 28 articles published between 1989-2013.” The study concluded that not only are these issues widespread, it is difficult to tell how widespread, as there has been a lot of fluctuation in the numbers of mentally ill reported in prisons. There are wide variations when self-reporting, however, many seriously mentally ill inmates are not competent to consent to self-report. A full mental health screening for every inmate currently incarcerated is called for. We must begin with accurate information in order to see precisely the magnitude of the crisis that we are experiencing in the judicial system.

Perhaps complicating the issue is the fact that for-profit prisons make money off of bodies in cells. If mentally ill inmates are diverted into other programs or facilities, there will be a substantial decline in the number of inmates held in these for-profit prisons. A complete overhaul of the prison system is necessary, and we must start by caring for persons with mental disabilities, not locking them up. We must implement policies and programs and procedures for dealing with the mentally ill in a compassionate way.

Another factor may have to do with poverty.  “Poverty is a common element among many mentally ill inmates, even homelessness.” (Prins) It was certainly true for myself and the people I encountered during my escapade. The way the current system is set up, homeless people can receive encroachment tickets for having their things out in public with them. Once they’ve received enough tickets that they cannot pay, they wind up in jail without the money to bail themselves out. Bail reform is something that Senator Kamala Harris has recently taken up in California. Far too many people linger in jail for longer than necessary due to these bail restrictions.

Another law, I feel is cruel, is the three strikes law. As Tala Al-Rousan wrote in “Inside the Nation’s Largest Mental Health Institution: A Prevalence Study in a State Prison System,” evidence suggests mentally ill persons are more likely to break rules, get in fights, be reprimanded by adding more charges to their time and spend more time in jail than someone who is not mentally ill. Once they’ve reached three strikes, they are now handed lifelong prison sentences.

Not only are mentally ill inmates more likely to be exploited by other inmates, they are more likely to break rules themselves. Abramsky noted in her article that the mentally ill face higher than average disciplinary rates, and lack of behavioral control, “Many refuse to comply with orders like sit down, come out of a cell, stand for count, remove clothes from cell bars, take showers.” A lack of showering is an often-cited symptom of depression.

Do the wealthy pay for mental health care to help avoid incarceration for their children? Why wouldn’t they? It is much easier to stay healthy when one has health insurance and have the money to afford premiums, co-pays, medications and expensive healthier foods. Does this system contribute to the criminalization of the poor? If the poor are disproportionally represented in prison and also lack mental health care prior to incarceration, then it certainly does. “Poor people with mental illness receive only short-term treatment, are stabilized, sent back out into the community with limited access to treatment.” (Abramsky)

The poor are criminalized for being sick, and that is absolutely disgusting.

The mentally ill face a host of challenges. In Prins’ review, he found these common elements: poverty, unemployment, crime, victimization, family breakdown, homelessness, substance abuse, general health problems and stigma. One of the difficulties of stigma is that the actions of the mentally ill are treated as disciplinary problems rather than as symptoms of their illnesses being observed. The inadequate access to community treatment options prior to incarceration is a terrible burden, and as we have seen, many, many people are diagnosed in jail or prison. In the Iowa study, Al-Rousan found 48% of inmates had mental illness, of whom 29% had serious mental illness, and 99% of the inmates were diagnosed while incarcerated, as I was.

Mental illness often interferes with the ability of the prisoner to cope with life in prison. There is a “prison code” that exists, and mentally ill persons are more likely to break this code, snitch on another inmate, and receive retaliation for it. (Abramsky) This leaves people with mental illness vulnerable, and often frightened. Eyal Press’ article “Madness”, presented by The New Yorker, closely followed life in the Dade Correctional Facility. It was found that people with mental disabilities also face general ostracization and are called nicknames like “dings” and “bugs.” Anyone attempting to help an inmate, such as a psychologist, was known as a “hug-a-thug.” This created a hostile working environment for psychologists and case workers at this particular facility, which allowed for the lethal abuse of an inmate with a mental illness.

The abuse and neglect of the mentally ill in prisons is a horrifying subject. I actually found so many examples of neglect and abuse among various sources that I focused on a few cases, two of neglect presented by Fellner, and one of abuse all resulting in death, presented by Press.

Neglect: Anthony McManus, a prisoner in Michigan, died in 2005. He was age 38, weighing a mere 75lbs. Although bipolar and schizophrenic, he was confined in a prison with no psychiatry department. He was pepper sprayed three days before his death and videotaped asking for food and water, although none was provided and his official cause of death was myocarditis and emaciation. (Fellner)

Neglect: Christopher Lopez, an inmate in Colorado, was 35 years old when he died at San Carlos Correctional Facility in 2013. He was schizophrenic and died from severe hyponatremia, which is too much psychotropic medication leading to low sodium in the blood. It is easily identifiable via blood test and treatable, but the nurse(s!) never took his vitals. He was kept in a room 22-24hours a day. (Fellner) Solitary confinement is cruel and unusual punishment, and it should never be used to discipline persons with mental disabilities.

Abuse: Inmate Darren Rainey was boiled to death in a hot shower in June 2012 in Florida at Dade Correctional Facility, where the incident was then covered up. Guards were seen laughing about “putting him in the shower” to discipline him, but the shower was hot enough to make coffee. (Press)
These cases were extreme, but not unique. Correctional Officers, or COs, use excessive force in many cases, and further compassionate training is required. Even when there the proper equipment is provided, such as restraining chairs or psychiatric beds, they are often misused.
There are many challenges to getting prisoners the mental health care they need. Abramsky noted that under staffing, poor screening and tracking of mentally ill prisoners, lack of timely access to mental health staff (guards are not referring prisoners often enough, and “bizarre behavior” is not enough for a referral, though it certainly should be when viewed as a symptom!), diagnosis of malingering (faking it, or manipulation), using medication as the sole treatment strategy, and a lack of confidentiality between the prisoner and the mental health staff all add barriers to prisoners receiving the help and medical attention they need.

I find some comfort knowing that some places are truly making an effort to integrate solutions to the mental health crisis. Tom Dart is an Illinois sheriff. Angela Bradbery wrote about his program for Public Citizen News. “Dart, who oversees one of the largest jails in the country, has implemented changes that have made his jail a role model for humanely managing seriously mentally ill inmates.” (Bradbery, 1) Dart manages his inmates in a number of ways that compassionately support the mentally ill. All staff receives mental illness training. Their jail provides full treatment, and upon release, transitions them to community resources. Once free, access to a 24-hour care line is available for mentally ill ex-inmates. This example is one to be mimicked around the country. Tom Dart has managed to show that some people do care, and that it can be done with proper planning and implementation.

Politicians and the community have failed the mentally ill. Mentally ill persons wind up in prison when they are left untreated within the community until their symptoms have gotten so bad that they commit a crime. The word “transinstitutionalization” refers to the problem of persons with mental illness being left untreated until they end up institutionalized within correctional settings. (Abramsky) This is certainly what happened to me. My symptoms had been getting worse for months prior to my leaving town, and I worsened to the point of not having the self-awareness necessary to monitor my moods. “Thousands of mentally ill are left untreated and unhelped until they have deteriorated so greatly that they wind up arrested and prosecuted for crimes they may never have committed had they been able to access therapy, medication, and assisted living facilities in the community.” (Abramsky) Reform is needed and public funding and support is needed. Stigma must be decreased and people must speak openly about mental health care in order to influence public opinion and garner support.

These changes can happen, and should.

Solutions are desperately needed to help with the mental health care crisis facing both prisons and communities today, for these problems are intertwined. Early preventative care and mental health screening in the community would greatly curb the number of people with mental disabilities being introduced to the criminal justice system to begin with, as they would have access to medications and therapy.

Therefore, I propose a whole host of solutions to offer compassionate methods of processing persons with mental disabilities. To begin, it would be helpful if police received extensive training in recognizing mental health crises. When I was on the streets, I had several interactions with police officers prior to my incident and arrest. None of them realized I was a missing person, and while they obviously could tell something was wrong, they had nowhere to take me and ultimately just released me back on the streets. Ideally, my symptoms should have been identified, and then the police could have transported me to facilities that do not yet exist. Some cities have PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) which sends out a psychiatrist along with a police officer. Together they determine where the individual needs to be taken. These PERT teams should be in all cities and be standard procedure.

The United States is in desperate need of more specialized facilities for the mentally ill. These facilities would need to process individuals in mental health crisis that have committed no crimes and are therefore free to go as long as they are not posing a threat to themselves or others and not be turned away for lack of insurance.

For the prisoners, there need to be acute crisis care units and intermediate care units with psychiatric beds for long-term care and rehabilitation in all facilities. Each location should include 24-hour psychiatric care and monitoring.

Bail reform is something that would reduce the criminalization of the poor. This can ruin lives, as the incarcerated can lose their jobs, their income and have no one to care for their children. Innocent until proven guilty should not include a bail system that is not intended to be, but is nonetheless, punitive.

Doing away with encroachment tickets would be a great start to reducing the criminalization of the homeless.

Another helpful solution would be the development of a kind of homeless daycare center. Think of it like a park, maybe with a library, with lots of shade and water fountains and bathrooms and showers and large lockers for their things. There could even be an on-site psychiatrist and psychologist available, and administrative staff to assist people with applying for health insurance, disability, and other forms of government assistance. In my utopia, this place already exists, funded completely by taxpayers.

The development of mental health applications has been a new and novel thing. Some apps help time breath, mood swings, all sorts of things. I don’t see why we haven’t seen applications that allow people to report mental illness they see in others (perhaps a PERT team can respond?) or, perhaps even more important, an app that puts the mentally ill in direct contact with help when they are in mental crisis. I’m not talking about a suicide hotline, I mean an app where I can press some buttons to say, “I’m hearing voices and losing my mind, what do I do?” and get put in immediate touch with a psychiatrist, assistance, a PERT team, anything. This is the next logical and necessary step.

Once a crime has been committed, there are many solutions that will aid in the compassionate processing and interfacing with mentally ill inmates. Firstly, as Abramsky points out, low level drug offenders are often diverted into substance abuse treatment programs. Since large numbers of the mentally ill also have substance abuse issues, making this universal would reduce the numbers of mentally ill in prisons. There should also be a diversion program in place for those who do not have substance abuse issues, but do have a history of mental illness. They should be diverted to intermediate care units for rehabilitation with minimum security.

Moving beyond training COs, there need to be treatment programs in place for inmates. There should be group therapy, solo therapy, medications should be introduced and tapered carefully, with staff in place around the clock. Pre-release care is important, as is a smooth transition to community resources for the recently released. I approve of Tom Dart’s 24-hour care line for mentally ill former inmates and think more places, if not all facilities, should implement such a solution.

We have abandoned the mentally ill to the streets and prison system, to struggle with substance abuse issues and endure a number of hardships. De institutionalization has created a public health crisis in the United States. Careful consideration and decisive action is needed to universalize and standardize the mental health care system. The mentally ill do not belong in prisons simply for being mentally ill and need to have access to round-the-clock care in facilities that are designed with their needs in mind. I am so grateful for the care I received while I was incarcerated.  This is not some luxury, it is a constitutional right to medical care, and it is needed now.


Works Cited

Abramsky, Sasha, and Jamie Fellner. “Ill-Equipped U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness.” Human Rights Watch, Open Society Institute, 21 Oct. 2003, www.hrw.org/report/2003/10/21/ill-equipped/us-prisons-and-offenders-mental-illness#912713.

Al-Rousan, Tala, et al. “Inside the Nation’s Largest Mental Health Institution: a Prevalence Study in a State Prison System.” BioMed Central, BMC Public Health, 20 Apr. 2017, bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-017-4257-0.

Bradbery, Angela, and Delaney Goodwin. “National Survey Shows County Jails Unequipped, Overwhelmed With Seriously Mentally Ill Inmates.” Public Citizen News [Washington, DC] 1 Oct. 2016, Vol. 36, No. 5: 1+. Print.

Fellner, Jamie. “Callous and Cruel Use of Force against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons.” Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, 12 May 2015, www.hrw.org/report/2015/05/12/callous-and-cruel/use-force-against-inmates-mental-disabilities-us-jails-and.

Fries, Brant E., et al. “Symptoms and Treatment of Mental Illness among Prisoners: A Study of Michigan State Prisons.” International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, vol. 36, no. 3-4, Jan. 2013, pp. 316–325. Science Direct, doi:https://doi.org.ezproxy.palomar.edu/10.1016/j.ijlp.2013.04.008.

Press, Eyal. “Madness.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 2 May 2016, www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/05/02/the-torturing-of-mentally-ill-prisoners.

Prins, Seth J. “Prevalence of Mental Illnesses in U.S. State Prisons: A Systematic Review .” Psychiatry Online, National Institute of Mental Health, 1 July 2014, ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.201300166.