by Julian Heicklen

Below are excerpts concerning food service from letters that I received from inmates at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) in Greene County from October to December 1997.

Kelsey Boston CZ­3972

In a letter of December 2, 1997, Kelsey Boston wrote that at least twice a week the correctional officers (COs) take things from him. They take his sheets and make him sleep on a cold, hard mattress with no pillow. Sometimes he gets mad, but most of the time he does not say anything. Then they will do other things like spitting in his food, verbally abusing him, and on a few occasions, physically abusing him. When he tells the guards that they are not following the Department of Corrections (DOC) Handbook, they just laugh. They say that they work for Superintendent Ben Varner, not the DOC. Mr. Boston pleads to get out of the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Greene County He does not care where he goes. He does not feel safe. He does not know if he will see tomorrow.

Johnie C. Byrd CV­4469

In a letter of December 10, 1997, Johnie Byrd wrote that he was transferred from SCI Houtzdale to SCI Geene County. Inmates are threatened by guards directly and indirectly. If the guards do not like you, they will spit in your food or drink. They lie so well that they must have a lying school for the state.

Link Dowell CM­5865

In a letter of December 12, 1997, Link Dowell wrote that today CO Walker was working on F block during the 2:00Ð10:00 PM shift. He and CO Kadar refused to feed him anything because the maximum date of his sentence is in January 1998. Dowell claims that he does not holler or call them names or even argue with them, but they persist in trying to intimidate him, because he is pressing charges against COs Walker and Santayo. He has received no misconduct reports as a result of these incidents, receives no replies to his Requests, and cannot obtain a Grievance form.

Robert Frederick BB­7883

Robert Frederick is an inmate in the RHU at SCI Greene County. He claims that he has been sick because of the food. He claims that he has found foreign objects in his food: spit on October 16, 1997; urine on November 11, 1997; and bowel movement on October 23 and November 17, 1997. On November 29, 1997, Mr. Frederick sent a Request to Sergeant Norman reporting that CO Saunders says that he spits in Frederick's food. Frederick accuses Sergeant Norman of being part of a conspiracy.

Darryl Gray DA­3161

On September 5, 1997, inmate Sapp and a correctional officer were feeding inmates on E-Unit B-Pod in RHU. After the inmates were finished eating their meals, inmate Sapp came by himself to collect inmates' food trays. When he reached Darryl Gray, cell EB­38, Sapp told Gray that he had put something in Gray's food and laughed.

George Ricketts BN­5049

In a letter of November 27, 1997, George Ricketts enclosed a copy of a Request of November 10, 1997. It stated that Ricketts is housed in H­D21 cell. He is constantly harassed by CO George of the 2:00­10:00 PM shift. CO George puts things in his food tray and refuses to give him his beverage. Today he slammed Ricketts' hand in the tray slot causing physical injury. Ricketts wrote to Sergeant Rigney, but received no reply, because he claims CO George destroys his incoming and outgoing mail. Ricketts wrote to Lt. Grainy, but received no reply. Ricketts will not eat his food, because it is tampered with. He still has the piece of metal he found in his tray the previous week. The reply that he received from Superintendent Varner was that the matter has been referred to Major Duke.

Gregory Wilson AS­3367

Greg Wilson was moved from SCI Rockview to SCI Greene County on October 15, 1997. In a letter of November 7, 1997, he claims that they are putting shit in his food at SCI Greene County.

Mr. Wilson sent me a copy of a Request of November 13, 1997, to Superintendent Ben Varner telling how little time he gets to eat and that the hot food is cold. He is getting only 3­4 minutes to eat dinner. No response was given to this Request.

On November 23, 1997, Mr. Wilson claims that there was something in his food. He sent me a copy of a Request of November 23, 1997, to Ben Varner. Wilson complains that COs Kovalchuk and Clovis do not give him enough time to eat. He claims the officers are not delivering his Request slips. He also submitted a Request slip about the food being cold all of the time. He never gets answers. There was no answer to this Request.

Tyrone Betrand AM­4329

I received a copy of legal brief No. 798 M. D. 1997 against officials at SCI Greene and Commissioner of Corrections Martin Horn. The petitioners are: Anthony Williams AY­6759, Steven Canty BI­8470, and Tyrone Betrand AM­4329. They claim that Mr. Betrand's food was contaminated, respondents urinated on his personal property, and subjected Mr. Betrand to racial oppression. Mr. Betrand has a learning disability and a history of mental problems. Petitioners Williams and Canty made the following allegations of fact on behalf of Petitioner Betrand:

On August 8, 1997, while Mr. Betrand was in the exercise yard, CO Evans conducted a search of Mr. Betrand's cell. When Mr. Betrand returned to his cell he discovered that his legal work, as well as his bed, had urine on them.

On August 30, 1997, CO Evans stuck his finger in Mr. Betrand's food tray and asked Betrand how he felt about the white man's hand in his food tray. Mr. Betrand pushed his food tray out of his cell. As a result of Betrand's action, he was place on bag lunches for 4 days. A bag lunch consisted of one bologna sandwich 3 times a day. On August 31, 1997, COs Evans and Bell handed Betrand his bag lunch. When Mr. Betrand bit into his sandwich, he discovered that it contained tobacco juices. COs Evans and Bell came to Mr. Betrand's cell and asked: "How did that spit taste nigger?". They told Mr. Betrand that the contaminated food was a result of Betrand throwing his food on CO Evans the previous day.

For the rest of the 4 days, Mr. Betrand only ate the bag meal at dinner since that meal was served by other correctional officers. COs Evans and Bell work from 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM and only serve breakfast and lunch. As a result of only one meal per day, Betrand lost weight.

On September 3, 1997, when Mr. Betrand had been returned to regular meals, CO Evans brought Mr. Betrand his breakfast tray. When Betrand began to eat, he noticed that there was chewing tobacco at the bottom of his food tray. CO Evans told Betrand that he would have to look for "white man's surprise" on every food tray. As a result of that action, Betrand no longer ate during the 6:00­2:00 PM shift.

Mr. Canty was warned by COs Evans and Bell that if he did not mind his own business, he would have to start watching for the "white man's surprise." On August 31, 1997, Mr. Canty was called as a witness on behalf of Mr. Betrand. Sometime thereafter, COs Evans and Bell brought Mr. Canty a food tray. CO Evans began whistling and dropping tobacco juice in Canty's food tray. When Canty protested about the contaminated food, CO Bell replied: "Eat it nigger, it won't hurt you." As a result, Mr. Canty felt that he could no longer eat on the 6:00­2:00 PM shift.

Mr. Williams, as a result of helping Mr. Betrand with his legal work regarding the contaminated food, was removed from his cell, had his legal work confiscated, and received food contaminated with tobacco juice. On August 30, 1997, CO Bell came to Mr. William's cell, searched it, and told Williams that "This is Greene County and a nigger like him better find out the only rights here are the white man's rights." CO Evans told Mr. Williams that if he wanted his food "surprise free," he should stop helping Betrand.

Aaron Penn DA­9796

Mr. Penn claims that he found spit in his food on October 16, 1997; bowel movement, on October 23 and November 17, 1997; and urine, on November 7, 1997.

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Alfonzo Salley­6796

Mr. Salley claims that often there is spit in his food. On July 13, 2000, at 10:00 AM, he found three metal staples in his strawberry shortcake. He sent me the three staples. He will not eat the food served on the 6:00 AM and 2:00 PM work shift.

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