CHARLES OLIVER AF­8462

by Julian Heicklen

Charles Oliver AF­8462 is a physically impaired inmate who arrived at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) in Greene County on September 16, 1998. No Misconduct Reports have been filed against him. Yet he has been held in Administrative Custody (AC) Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) since his arrival until at least his last letter to me of January 19, 1999.

Mr. Oliver claims that he was beaten the first day he arrived and put into AC custody. He asked for basic issue (cloths, sheets, soap). He was assaulted again and not given anything for three days. All of his attempts to inform the staff failed, because he had to give the paperwork to the housing officer. His requests never reached the intended receiver.

Mr. Oliver is in fear for his life, and not from the inmates. He is a 43 year-old veteran. He is totally blind in his right eye. He can only read and write from a distance of 4­5 inches. He arrived at SCI Greene on September 16, 1998, from SCI Smithfield with an administrative transfer for unauthorized group activity. He was holding a study group on the origins of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. For this he was placed in lock down. This is the reason given to continue his AC RHU status.

The first beating occurred on September 16, 1998, when he was escorted from intake to a Disciplinary Custody (DC) status unit, even though he was on AC status. The time was between 6 and 7 PM. He was handcuffed behind his back. When he arrived on F- pod of the DC unit, there were 7­10 guards awaiting him. The corridor was divided by a ceiling-high aluminum barrier that effectively prevented any view from the various pods. Mr. Oliver was uncuffed, told to strip, and face the wall. When he took off his glasses Correctional Officer (CO) Santos asked him what was wrong with his eyes. When Oliver told him, Santos said that he did not believe him. The CO then went to Oliver's right side (the blind side) and hit him on the right side of his head with something hard. Oliver assumes that it was his nightstick. Santos then said "Now I believe you, because you did not duck." Mr. Oliver still had the swelling on the side of his head as the result of the blow when he wrote me on October 30, 1998. He received no medical attention. Mr. Oliver was placed in #9 cell on F-pod. He was given no sheets or basic issue of any kind for five days. During this time, he had a jumpsuit, but no other property or means to communicate. He was told that this was routine for new inmates. His eyeglass frames were broken in half. Mr. Oliver asked if they could be sent to medical for repair, because he had them especially made and is so dependent on them. His glasses were confiscated (item #AO73140).

The second assault occurred September 22 or 23, 1998, when he was escorted from F-pod to H-pod (AC unit). He was assaulted in the corridor by a CO named Pahler, who had Oliver in a choke hold while another officer hit him in the stomach with his night stick.

The third assault occurred on October 29, 1998. This assault had witnesses as it took place in H-pod during yard exercise. For one hour on five days each week, the inmates are escorted into an outside pen about 10-feet square. The guards were CO I Riodian and CO I Lowther. In that attack, Oliver was thrown to the ground, a knee placed on his back, and the nightstick was placed horizontally across his throat. The most unusual thing is that no Misconduct Reports were issued.

Inmate Robert Jones AF­8050 wrote to me that on October 29, 1998, he witnessed the beating of Charles Oliver AF­8462 in the yard by COs Lowther and Riodian. He said that his kind of conduct occurs on a regular basis.

Another inmate that wishes not to be identified wrote to me that on October 29, 1998, while he was in the yard, he heard something that made him turn around and look. He noticed Charles Oliver getting up from his knees while COs Riodian and Lowther were standing over him making what sounded like racial comments and taunts. At the time no other guards were present.

After an interview with Captain Banks, the 6AM­2PM Shift Commander, Mr. Oliver was escorted back to his cell by the CO who was discussed in the interview. In direct retaliation, this CO (Riodian) yanked Oliver's hands forward through the pie hole while uncuffing him. This caused Mr. Oliver to hit his head on the cell door. The incident was witnessed by CO Sanders, who said nothing. This occurred on November 4, 1998, the date of the interview.

Mr. Oliver has filed 14 Inmate Requests and six Inmate Grievances about these beatings that I have seen. In all but one of the responses, the respondents passed the document to someone else or denied the request or grievance without any substantive reason. The one exception was a reply from Major Casner concerning the incident of October 29, 1998. The six Inmate Grievances were sent to Sharon Beerman, Grievance Coordinator (4) and Major Casner (2). The 14 Inmate Requests were sent to Superintendent Phillip Johnson (4); Joyce Korman, Unit Manager (1); Major Hassett (4); Mr. Mahlmeister, Unit Manager (2); Lieutenant Fisher (1), Captain Banks (1); and Captain Winfield (1).

Major Casner did give a substantive response dated November 20, 1998, to Grievance #GRN­1004­98 of November 4, 1998. It stated that on November 11, 1998, Lt. Young interviewed Mr. Oliver regarding the grievance, which is an allegation of assault by COs Riodian and Lowther while being escorted to yard. Lt. Young asked Mr. Oliver where the incident occurred. Mr. Oliver responded somewhere in the hallway and the yard under a camera. Lt. Young asked if there were witnesses. Mr. Oliver stated yes, but would not provide names, because the individuals could get into trouble. Lt. Young interviewed CO Lowther on November 17, 1998, who denied the assault. Lt Young also spoke with officers on the pod who said this incident never occurred. On November 18,1998, Lt. Young spoke with the Medical Department. He was informed that Mr. Oliver did not mention a problem until November 13, 1998. The alleged incident occurred on October 29, 1998. The physician's assistant and the doctor examined Oliver. X-rays were taken, which showed no injuries. Lt. Young also spoke with Lt. Fisher, who informed him that Oliver would not provide names of witnesses, nor did he give the Program Review Committee (PRC) any names when he saw them for his review. Mr. Oliver stated in his grievance that he did not come out of his cell for showers or yard when these officers are working, but if that is true, how could they have assaulted him? Mr. Oliver stated that he feared for his life, but he presented no evidence to support his claims of abuse by any staff member. Grievance denied.

In summary, SCI Greene has provided no evidence that the assaults of September 18, September 22 or 23, or of November 4, 1998, did not occur, nor has it taken any action against the COs alleged to have committed the assaults. Major Casner provides participant testimony denying that the assault of October 29, 1998, ever occurred. However two inmates have testified that they witnessed the assault.