by Julian Heicklen

Aaron Penn DA­9796 is a 20-year old black male inmate at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) in Greene County. On December 10, 1997, at approximately 4:30 PM, he was brought to the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) for fighting with another inmate. After he was registered, Correctional Officer (CO) Gibson took him to his cell. About 15 minutes later, CO Gibson returned to his cell, handcuffed him, and told him that the doctor wanted to see him. CO Gibson took him to the doctor's office. The doctor was waiting for him. Mr. Penn was sitting on top of a hospital bed while the doctor asked him a few questions. The doctor asked his age and if he was in pain. He told the doctor his age, and that he was allright. The doctor left. Mr. Penn was still sitting on the bed, while CO Gibson was sitting on a chair next to him. Mr. Penn asked CO Gibson what is happening. CO Gibson responded that the lieutenant wanted to speak with him.

At approximately 5:15 PM, Lieutenant Matzyn came into the room with 8 other guards. Now there were a total of 10 officers in the room with him. The only guards' names that Mr. Penn knows are COs Walker, Gibson, Kadar, and Clovis. Lieutenant Matzyn removed the handcuffs and said to Penn: "You like to hit my staff." As soon as he said that, he swung and smacked Mr. Penn across his face. Then Lieutenant Matzyn and 3 other COs lifted him from the hospital bed and slammed him on the floor. While he was on the floor, all of the guards started punching and kicking him in the stomach, back of his legs, and the top of his head. Penn was lying in the floor curled up with his hands covering his face. During the beating, the guards were calling Mr. Penn names and using profanity. Then they lifted him and slammed him back on the bed.

One of the guards had Mr. Penn's face pinned to the bed, while the other guards started punching him in the back and ribs. He felt one of the guards crack him in the back with a nightstick. Then they stood him up and handcuffed him. When he was handcuffed, Lieutenant Matzyn asked him if he was allright. Penn responded yes. Then Lieutenant Matzyn said "Oh yeah" and hit him about 4 more times in the stomach. They rushed outside the doctor's office and slammed him against the wall. Lieutenant Matzyn told him that if he said anything to anyone, he would see to it that he would be beaten on a regular basis. Then he slammed Penn's head on the wall. CO Gibson took Penn to his cell.

Mr. Penn came to the unit crying in front of Robert Frederick BB­7883, Link Dowell CM­ 5865, David Vaughn CU­5074, Allen French CD­8733, and the whole unit. Mr. Penn did not have a pen or paper to record the incident, so someone smuggled him these items. Mr. Penn was placed in his cell with no underclothes, socks, tee shirt, underwear, soap, toothpaste or linens. He was left like that for the entire evening. His back has been killing him ever since. He never said anything to the nurse for fear of being beaten again. He asked for a Grievance form, but the request was ignored.

In his cell, Mr. Penn was trying to understand why they were doing this to him. The next day, he learned when he received his Misconduct Report 01280 dated December 10, 1997, reported by David Clifton CO­I. Witnesses were COs Bowser, Beddick, Gumbarevic, and inmate Borger DFÐ3069. The incident occurred by the EA water fountain. The charges were assault class 1, fighting class 1, and refusing to obey an order. CO Clifton witnessed Penn charge, tackle, and strike inmate Borger in the face several times. COs Clifton and Bowser separated Penn and Borger. CO Clifton gave several direct orders to Mr. Penn to cease all activity and cuff up. Mr. Penn refused by wrestling with the officer on the floor and then using his elbow. Mr. Penn struck the officer in the left forearm and shoulder area. Mr. Penn was subdued. CO Clifton held him down, while CO Bowser cuffed him. Mr. Penn was placed in pre-hearing confinement and restricted movement for increased control.

Mr. Penn denies touching the guard. The guard weighed over 250 pounds. Mr. Penn claims that he could not have elbowed him, even if he wanted to.

The hearing was held on December 12, 1997, before Hearing Examiner Ben Ansell. Mr. Penn pled guilty to fighting, but not guilty of the other 2 charges. He was found guilty of all 3 counts and given 120 days total (30 + 60 + 30). Two of these may have been concurrent, because the total is given as 90 days Disciplinary Custody (DC) RHU.

Mr. Penn appealed, but the Program Review Committee (PRC) upheld the decision on December 16, 1997. The PRC members were Jean Mears, Charles Rossi, and Linda Welling.

When he first told me this (January 8, 1998), Mr. Penn felt that his life was in danger. However in his letter of February 17, 1998, he states: "that there are a couple of guys here that I put their stories on the Internet. The guards are furious and scared. The Internet is definitely saving us."