Below are excerpts concerning food service from letters that I received from inmates at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Rockview from March to December 1997.
Darrick Clark BY3882
In a letter of April 14, 1997, Mr. Clark stated that he participated in a hunger strike. His complaints include misuse of medical treatment and food service. He believes that his life is in danger, but he gave no specifics.
Michael Golden CQ8561
I received a letter from Michael Golden dated April 26, 1997. He enclosed a copy of a letter to Mr. O'Hara, the Director of the Office of Professional Relations for the Department of Corrections (DOC), telling that on April 25, 1997, Correctional Officer (CO) Stodart spit on his food tray and then threw a bucket of hot water on him in his cell. He was burned, but was refused medical attention. On April 26, 1997, CO Stodart showed him a container that holds film and said that he was adding flavor to his food. He has been threatened by numerous guards that he will not leave the prison alive. They will make his death look like a suicide. Mr. Golden sent the same letter to Mr. Harrison, Director of the Bureau of Inmate Services, and to Martin Horn, the Commissioner of the DOC.
Shaikh Muhammad BB6231
In a letter of March 14, 1997, Mr. Muhammad claims that the guards spike the inmate's food and give them verbal abuse.
In a letter of May 11, 1997, Mr. Muhammad states that he knows that the food is spiked, because he has received food with hair, tobacco, and other unidentifiable objects. The food is served in dirty trays and bowls. Muhammad has been called dick head, pussy, asshole, and nigger by different guards. When he asks for a Grievance form, they say that they do not have any. When he gets Grievance forms, the guards either trash them or he receives no response.
In a letter of June 1, 1997, Mr. Muhammad said that he did not eat while in the "Pink Cell" (April 28, 1997, until May 2, 1997) because 1) He was on a hunger strike, 2) The same guards that were tormenting him said that once he starts eating, they have a special tray of spiked food for him. He reported this conversation to his psychologist, Miss Hericko, when she came to see him.
Michael Redding AY8999
In a letter of April 24, 1997, Michael Redding stated that he works in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU). He claims to have seen first-hand the tainting of food, punishments, and racial slurs. He claims that there are false write-ups, meals improperly handled, and mail lost.
In a letter of July 18, 1997, Mr. Redding wrote that he overheard Sergeant Gonzales tell an inmate named Stew (probably Stuart Kaplan AP9916) that he was white trash and that he would piss in his food.
In a letter of September 5, 1997, Mr. Reading reports that he has talked to several staff members about the handling of food. The guards are supposed to wear gloves when serving the meals. They are not supposed to chew gum or tobacco, but they do. He claims that disease is transmitted by the filthy keys that the guards use while serving food. Liquid food comes with a film on the surface. Food was served with hair, chewing tobacco, spit, and a worm in it.
In a letter of September 15, 1997, Mr. Redding wrote that he and James Salmon (AP9636) have started a food strike. Deputy Superintendents Whitman and Gaertner have come with excuses about the handling of food. Redding claims that the medical director is supposed to make a monthly report on hygiene and sanitation.
In a letter of September 22, 1997, Mr. Redding says that he has written to a Mr. Miller about the deplorable handling of food, but received no response. He again discusses the use of chewing tobacco, candy, and gum. There is supposed to be a daily inspection by the food manager and a weekly inspection by the medical director. These have yet to materialize. Again he writes about spreading contagious diseases, because of unsanitary conditions. He has been on a hunger strike for 8 days. Since he started the hunger strike, he has been the object of expletives and intimidation.
James R. Salmon, Jr. AP9636
Mr. Salmon arrived at SCI Rockview from SCI Huntingdon on June 16, 1997. In a letter of October 13, 1997, Mr. Salmon wrote that he and Michael Redding AY8999 were involved in a hunger strike over food conditions. He says that the food problem is somewhat resolved. He started another hunger strike on October 6, because the food trays were not being prepared at the front of the range as ordered by Acting Superintendent Meyers. Mr. Salmon had tried going through the chain of command, but to no avail. Medical Services ordered him to eat or report to the infirmary. He refused both options. The food trays now are being prepared at the front of the range, and he is eating.
In a letter of November 1, 1997, Mr. Salmon writes that a grievance was filed to Deputy Superintendent Whitman about food service. Mr. Whitman replied that food regulations are now being followed in RHU.
In a letter of December 7, 1997, Mr. Salmon enclosed a 24-page log of events in RHU starting September 15, 1997, and running to December 4, 1997. A summary of pertinent events follows:
September 15: Mr. Salmon and Michael Redding started the hunger strike.
September 25: Acting Superintendent Robert Meyers and Grievance Coordinator Samuel Mazzotta come to talk. Some of the food handling issues are resolved. Mr. Meyers states that the COs are to push the cart in front of the range to prepare trays and that they are not to be brought around from the back already prepared. Mr. Meyers ordered RHU staff to give salt with food, which he stated he ordered them to do one year ago, but which they did not do. Deputy Meyers ordered the 1st shift to stop shaking down the cells when inmates are not present. Michael Redding was released from RHU today. Today the 2nd shift brought prepared food trays from the back and shook down the cells. Salmon complained to Lt. Bechdel about the tray issue. Bechdel says he does not have enough men to prepare the trays at the front of the range. He also states that pretty soon, the 2nd shift would start shaking down the cells, since they complained about not being present when the 1st shift shook down cells. Salmon pointed out DCADM 203. Bechdel said these rules do not matter. He has an RHU rule break. Second shift continues to bring food trays from rear on following days. Salmon files complaints.
October 6: Salmon resumes hunger strike over tray issue.
October 9: Salmon and Lt. Bechdel have words about the tray issue and the shakedowns.
October 10: Salmon is checked by a nurse and a doctor. He has high blood pressure and has lost 11-14 pounds in 5 days. He refuses further medical tests and to eat. He is escorted back to RHU. Later Bechdel orders Salmon to the infirmary. Salmon refuses to go. Mr. Walmer, Head of Psychology, comes to his cell. Sergeant Wiser asks if Salmon will eat if the trays are prepared at the front of the cell. Salmon agrees and resumes eating at supper time. Second shift shakes down cell. Salmon has words with Bechdel and refuses to leave cell.
October 15, 1997: Salmon gets another 60 days in RHU.
October 1820: Salt not served with food. On October 20, the salt returned.
October 23: The second shift brought the trays from rear.
November 12: There was no salt on November 1, but there was salt on November 2.
November 56: There was no salt. The trays were brought from the rear of range. The creamed chipped beef was cold.
November 2021: On November 20, there was no salt with supper. On November 21, salt came with all meals.
November 23: The trays were prepared in the rear.
November 27: No salt.
December 1: Salmon's counselor, Mark Tree, said that he was recommending Salmon for release to general population. Salmon refused, as he will not double cell.
December 4: At Salmon's Program Review Committee (PRC) review, Mr. Salmon asked why no-one on the range has had a haircut since September? Why hasn't he been issued a winter coat? Why doesn't he get the books he orders from the library? Deputy Superintendent Whitman interrupted him and asked if he gave Salmon a Z code (single cell status) and a job in the print shop, would he leave RHU? Salmon agreed. Salmon was released immediately and started working in the print shop on December 5.
Gregory Wilson AS3367
In a letter of April 26, 1997, Mr. Wilson wrote that he had to stop eating because there was shit in his food. He continued that he will eat nothing until these people transfer him out this jail.
In a letter of April 29, 1997, Mr. Wilson writes that he is scared that the staff is going to kill him. He has not eaten for 5 days because the guards put stuff in his food.
In a letter of May 6, 1997, Wilson writes that he had started eating, but stopped, because he was getting sick from something that he claims they were putting in his food.
In a letter of May 29,1997, Wilson reports that COs Stodart, Greendoner, and Rothrock are putting things in his food again.
On October 15, 1997, Mr. Wilson was transferred to SCI Greene County where his food service troubles continued.