BLAIR COUNTY PRISON SOCIETY
by Julian Heicklen
May 1, 2000
I am the Libertarian party candidate for Attorney General of Pennsylvania. One of my objectives, if I get elected, is to reform the prisons and reduce their population. Here are some tales from the Pennsylvania state prisons, that I would like to see not recur.
A. Larry Albury
Larry Albury, a black male inmate at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Rockview, died March 19, 1997, at 10:59 PM of hepatic renal failure. He was 43 years old. He was found dead by a staff member at SCI Rockview. There was no autopsy, but there was a coroner's report.
Shaikh Muhammad BB6231 lived in the cell next to Albury at one time. Albury continually complained that the prison would not give him a kidney operation. Most of the time he couldn't walk and would swell up. In August 1996, Albury was placed in the restricted housing unit (RHU) for arguing with the nurse about his condition. Dr. Solomon came to see Albury and transferred him to the infirmary. He returned to RHU, but after a few days was in bad shape, so they sent him back to general population. When Muhammad was in the infirmary (May 25, 1997), he questioned CO Kuhns about Albury. He said Albury was on a list to get a kidney operation at home after he was released. Kuhns also stated that because of the delay in the operation, Albury's liver failed, and he died.
In January 1997, Michael Redding AY8999, a personal friend of Albury, reports that Albury told him that he was not being treated because he was due to be released in 6 months. Albury died two months later.
B. Aaron Penn DA9796
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 CM5865, David Vaughn CU 5074, 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 DF3069. 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."
C. Debtors Prison
Debtors prison was abolished in most civilized countries, including the United States, in the 19th century. It was reintroduced into Pennsylvania in 1991, when the state legislature passed P.L. 335, No. 35 §3. This was incorporated as an amendment into Statute 71 P. S. §1807 as Statute 71 P. S. §1807.15. This amendment requires that, in order to be paroled, an inmate must pay a minimum of $30 toward his restitution fine, which will be shared by the Crime Victims Compensation Board and the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
I received a letter dated November 30, 1997, from inmate Jeffrey L. Lanager DB5391, which informed me that Mr. Lanager was in the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Rockview for a parole violation. He had a parole hearing on July 14, 1997. The Board of Probation and Parole rendered a favorable decision on August 8, 1997. He received his "green sheet" on October 14, 1997, which stated that he is to be paroled subject to a number of conditions. One of these conditions was to pay at least $30 to comply with Statute 71 P. S. §1807.15. However he does not have the $30, and his family either cannot or will not pay it.
Mr. Lanager submitted 4 Request slips to Francis M. Dougherty, the Business Manager at SCI Rockview, throughout the month of November asking for funds from the Inmate Welfare Fund. He received no answer to 3 of the Requests, but he did receive an answer to the 4th one. Mr. Dougherty stated "that it is not the Institutions responsibility to pay Act 27 for inmates to be paroled and that the Inmates' Welfare Fund is not for that purpose."
I called the parole office at SCI Rockview on December 10, 1997, and spoke with Edward Burke. He told me that Mr. Lanager was cleared for parole except for two things. His home plan of living with his mother had not been approved yet. It was sent to an investigator on November 17, 1997. The investigator has 35 days to return the report. Also Lanager has to pay the $30 towards fines. After all the paper work is in to the parole office, it will take one week to release Lanager.
On December 18, 1997, I again spoke to Mr. Burke, who said that Mr. Lanager's home plan was approved and that all that was needed to release Mr. Lanager was the $30. If the $30 was not paid, Mr. Lanager would remain in prison until the date of his maximum sentence, April 11, 1998. It costs about $72 per day to keep an inmate in a state prison. The maintenance cost from December 18, 1997, to April 11, 1998, is about $8208. In addition it is not clear why it took from the date of the parole hearing, July 14, 1997, until October 14, 1997, to notify Mr. Lanager that he would be released. That delay cost the taxpayers about $6624 in prison maintenance costs.
The final irony is that if Mr. Lanager had been released, he could be working and might be able to pay the $30. The folly of this situation was more than I could bear as a taxpayer. I went to the Centre County Department of Probation and Parole Office on December 18, 1997, and paid the $30. Mr. Lanager was released on January 1, 1998.
D. Kenneth Charles CD1697
Here is an example of American justice. Kenneth Charles, inmate #CD1697 at the State Correctional Institute at Rockview, was arrested in his cell at about 6:00 PM on the night of May 22, 1996. He was charged with being one of three inmates that assaulted a fourth inmate, Glenn Porter, inmate #CM8194 at about 5:00 PM that same day. Mr. Charles was placed in the Restrictive Housing Unit (RHUalso known as solitary confinement) on May 29, 1996, pending a hearing. Mr. Charles claimed that he did not know Mr. Porter. He asked that Mr. Porter be present at the hearing, so that he could question him.
The hearing was held on May 31, 1996. At the hearing, the only people present were the accused (Mr. Charles), the hearing examiner (J. Stidd), and a guard that took no part in the proceedings. The hearing examiner did not require that Mr. Porter be present at the hearing, even though Mr. Charles requested that he be present. When Mr. Charles was shown a picture of the victim, he claimed that he did not know him. No evidence was presented that Mr. Charles had a weapon. Until the hearing, Mr. Charles did not know who identified him as the assailant. At the hearing Mr. Charles was informed that Mr. Porter had identified him from a photo identification as one of the assailants. Of course Mr. Charles had no opportunity to question Mr. Porter, since he was not present. Mr. Charles was found guilty of assault and possession of the assault weapon (a screwdriver), even though the assault weapon was found in the possession of another inmate.
Mr. Charles was sentenced to disciplinary custody for 90 days in RHU, commencing May 29, 1996. The assault was reported to the state police and the district attorney, but the district attorney did not file criminal proceedings, presumably because of lack of evidence.
I spoke with Mr. Charles' cellmate on September 26, 1996. He stated that at the time of the assault, he and Mr. Charles were returning from the dining hall to their cell to play a game of chess. That is what they were doing when Mr. Charles was arrested at 6:00 PM. Mr. Charles cellmate was not present at the hearing and did not testify, because he was not called.
On August 15, 1996, while Mr. Charles was in RHU, he learned from a guard that the state police had filed a report that the screwdriver was on another individual. The report also stated that the three assailants were wearing hoods, and that Mr. Porter could not identify the other two assailants. The report was not presented at the hearing. I checked with the state police trooper (Trooper Sally Brown) that filed the police report, and she confirmed that the assailants were masked. This raises two questions: 1) How could Mr. Porter have identified Mr. Charles from a photo identification? 2) Why was Mr. Charles not provided with this information, and why was it withheld from the hearing proceedings?
Mr. Charles claims that he is innocent, and that he had no reasonable opportunity to prove it. He also wants to know "Why Captain Tressler wrote a false report without doing a full investigation?" His sentence to disciplinary custody was used as a reason to deny him parole at his parole board hearing of November 8, 1996.
E. Prison Overcrowding
Hepatitis C is a highly contagious disease. It leads to death in about 80% of cases. In the California state prisons, the incidence of hepatitis C among inmates is 39%. A knowledgeable inmate in the Pennsylvania prisons has informed me that the incidence of hepatitis C among inmates is 40%. Presumably the percentages are comparable in other state prisons and in federal prisons. Most of these inmates will not die in prison. They will be released to infect the rest of the population before they die.
Most of the inmates that enter prison do not have the disease. This means that those leaving prison have a much higher incidence (probably about 70%) of hepatitis C. In 1996, the number of inmates leaving state and federal prison was 232,000; about 94% were males. From 1986 to 1996, the prison population grew at an average rate of 8.4% per year. If this rate is maintained, the number of male prisoners leaving our state and federal prisoners between 1996 and 2010 will be 5,800,000; from 1996 to 2020, the number will be 18 million.
The 18 million figure does not include women. It does not include those released from county prisons or jails. About ten times as many men will be released from county prisons and jails as from state and federal prisons. The incidence of hepatitis C in the county facilities is not known, but some of these inmates must also have the disease.
In March 2000, California passed a law that will treat 1417 year old offenders as adult criminals. They will be sent to adult facilities where all of them will be raped several times, which is the main route of transmitting the disease. All of them will leave prison infected with hepatitis C when they will be in their sexually active years.
We have embarked on a peculiar public health policy. We are going to infect tens of millions of ourselves with a fatal disease. No other political party understands this or wishes to stop it. Only the Libertarian Party advocates prison reform and a reduction in prison populations. The Libertarian party is not your best hope for survival. It is your only hope. Our candidates need 22,000 signatures to get on the ballot. I hope that you will sign our nominating petition. Our campaign also will require money. Any amount that you can contribute will be appreciated.